What is mining?
Mining removes stone (like granite), minerals (like diamonds), metals (like iron or copper) oil, coal, and gas from the Earth. There are different ways to remove these materials from our Earth such as open pit mining, drilling or fracking. There are many difficult environmental problems when mining our Earth.
There are different types of mining:
- Shaft mining is very dangerous. Men dig a mine shaft vertically into the earth until they meet a seam – a place rich in mineral deposits. Then, the miners dig horizontal shafts to dig out the minerals in the seam. These shafts get very hot and it’s hard to breathe. Rocks fall and sometimes gas explodes. The deepest shaft mine is the TauTona gold mine in South Africa. This mine is 2.4 miles Deep.
- Open pit mines are simply big, open holes with terraced sides. Coal, copper and other minerals are dug out of the pits. Very deep pits sometimes hold uranium. Once the minerals or coal is gone, the pits are filled with trash and covered with soil. The biggest open pit mine in the world is the Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah, which is almost one mile deep.
- Quarrying is the process of cutting stone, usually out of a mountainside. Years ago, quarrymen used dynamite or hammers and wedges to split the rock off the mountain. Today, mechanized saws do the work.
- Oil rigs drill for oil far out in the ocean. Underneath the rock lie oil and gas reserves. Sometimes the oil spills, which can pollute the water and kill sea life.
Why do we mine?
Some of the ways we mine can be harmful to the Earth, the plants, animals and people who live near by. Mining too often poisons (pollutes) land, air, and water near the area being mined. This destroys the habitats (homes) for many living creatures including us. However, don’t forget that mines are needed for making many products that all of us use.
We need the minerals, metals, oil and coal that we remove from the Earth to create products that we use everyday. For example, iron is used for our cars and school buses. Oil is used to run our cars. Copper is used to make electric wires.