Last week, we learned about the dangers posed to an underground metal miner. This week, we’ll focus on the process of mineral extraction, which is what mining is all about! Extracting raw materials from the Earth supports much of our economic and social infrastructure (smartphones, for example, are made of metals such as copper, gold, lead, nickel, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, coltan, gold, and lithium which must be mined from the Earth as raw ore and processed into usable materials).1
Mineral extraction involves removing surface layers of ”waste rock” to access and extract rock that includes the desired minerals. Underground mines consist of tunnels and shafts in order to reach deep pockets of mineral ore. The rocks that include the desired mineral ore are then placed in ”ore carts” on tracks that are then transported to above-ground mine facilities to be milled and smelted. Stay tuned for next week’s post to learn about milling mineral ore!
Photos courtesy of George W. Tabor Photographs, University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives