Understanding The Concept of Mining

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an ore bodylodeveinseamreef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner.

Ores recovered by mining include metalscoaloil shalegemstoneslimestonechalkdimension stonerock saltpotashgravel, and clay. Mining is required to obtain any material that cannot be grown through agricultural processes, or feasibly created artificially in a laboratory or factory. Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of any non-renewable resource such as petroleum, natural gas, or even water.

History Of Mining

Mining of stones and metal has been a human activity since pre-historic times. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the land after the mine is closed. De Re Metallica, Georgius Agricola, 1550, Book I, Para. 1

Mining operations usually create a negative environmental impact, both during the mining activity and after the mine has closed. Hence, most of the world’s nations have passed regulations to decrease the impact. Work safety has long been a concern as well, and modern practices have significantly improved safety in mines.

Levels of metals recycling are generally low. Unless future end-of-life recycling rates are stepped up, some rare metals may become unavailable for use in a variety of consumer products. Due to the low recycling rates, some landfills now contain higher concentrations of metal than mines themselves.

Prehistoric mining

Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna ValleyNegev Desert

Since the beginning of civilization, people have used stoneceramics and, later, metals found close to the Earth‘s surface. These were used to make early tools and weapons; for example, high quality flint found in northern France, southern England and Poland was used to create flint tools.[2] Flint mines have been found in chalk areas where seams of the stone were followed underground by shafts and galleries. The mines at Grimes Graves and Krzemionki are especially famous, and like most other flint mines, are Neolithic in origin (c. 4000–3000 BC). Other hard rocks mined or collected for axes included the greenstone of the Langdale axe industry based in the English Lake District.

The oldest-known mine on archaeological record is the Ngwenya Mine in Swaziland, which radiocarbon dating shows to be about 43,000 years old. At this site Paleolithic humans mined hematite to make the red pigment ochre. Mines of a similar age in Hungary are believed to be sites where Neanderthals may have mined flint for weapons and tools.[5]

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptians mined malachite at Maadi. At first, Egyptians used the bright green malachite stones for ornamentations and pottery. Later, between 2613 and 2494 BC, large building projects required expeditions abroad to the area of Wadi Maghareh in order to secure minerals and other resources not available in Egypt itself. Quarries for turquoise and copper were also found at Wadi HammamatTuraAswan and various other Nubian sites on the Sinai Peninsula and at Timna.

Mining in Egypt occurred in the earliest dynasties. The gold mines of Nubia were among the largest and most extensive of any in Ancient Egypt. These mines are described by the Greek author Diodorus Siculus, who mentions fire-setting as one method used to break down the hard rock holding the gold. One of the complexes is shown in one of the earliest known maps. The miners crushed the ore and ground it to a fine powder before washing the powder for the gold dust.

Ancient Greek and Roman mining

Further information: Mining in Roman Britain

Ancient Roman development of the Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Wales

Mining in Europe has a very long history. Examples include the silver mines of Laurium, which helped support the Greek city state of Athens. Although they had over 20,000 slaves working them, their technology was essentially identical to their Bronze Age predecessors. At other mines, such as on the island of Thassos, marble was quarried by the Parians after they arrived in the 7th century BC.  The marble was shipped away and was later found by archaeologists to have been used in buildings including the tomb of Amphipolis. Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, captured the gold mines of Mount Pangeo in 357 BC to fund his military campaigns. He also captured gold mines in Thrace for minting coinage, eventually producing 26 tons per year.

However, it was the Romans who developed large scale mining methods, especially the use of large volumes of water brought to the minehead by numerous aqueducts. The water was used for a variety of purposes, including removing overburden and rock debris, called hydraulic mining, as well as washing comminuted, or crushed, ores and driving simple machinery.

The Romans used hydraulic mining methods on a large scale to prospect for the veins of ore, especially a now-obsolete form of mining known as hushing. They built numerous aqueducts to supply water to the minehead. There, the water stored in large reservoirs and tanks. When a full tank was opened, the flood of water sluiced away the overburden to expose the bedrockunderneath and any gold veins. The rock was then worked upon by fire-setting to heat the rock, which would be quenched with a stream of water. The resulting thermal shock cracked the rock, enabling it to be removed by further streams of water from the overhead tanks. The Roman miners used similar methods to work cassiterite deposits in Cornwall and lead ore in the Pennines.

The methods had been developed by the Romans in Spain in 25 AD to exploit large alluvial gold deposits, the largest site being at Las Medulas, where seven long aqueducts tapped local rivers and sluiced the deposits. Spain was one of the most important mining regions, but all regions of the Roman Empire were exploited. In Great Britain the natives had mined minerals for millennia,[11] but after the Roman conquest, the scale of the operations increased dramatically, as the Romans needed Britannia‘s resources, especially goldsilvertin, and lead.

Roman techniques were not limited to surface mining. They followed the ore veins underground once opencast mining was no longer feasible. At Dolaucothi they stoped out the veins and drove adits through bare rock to drain the stopes. The same adits were also used to ventilate the workings, especially important when fire-setting was used. At other parts of the site, they penetrated the water table and dewatered the mines using several kinds of machines, especially reverse overshot water-wheels. These were used extensively in the copper mines at Rio Tinto in Spain, where one sequence comprised 16 such wheels arranged in pairs, and lifting water about 24 metres (79 ft). They were worked as treadmills with miners standing on the top slats. Many examples of such devices have been found in old Roman mines and some examples are now preserved in the British Museum and the National Museum of Wales.

Medieval Europe

Main article: Mining and metallurgy in medieval Europe

Agricola, author of De Re Metallica

Gallery, 12th to 13th century, Germany

Mining as an industry underwent dramatic changes in medieval Europe. The mining industry in the early Middle Ages was mainly focused on the extraction of copper and iron. Other precious metals were also used, mainly for gilding or coinage. Initially, many metals were obtained through open-pit mining, and ore was primarily extracted from shallow depths, rather than through deep mine shafts. Around the 14th century, the growing use of weapons, armour, stirrups, and horseshoes greatly increased the demand for iron. Medieval knights, for example, were often laden with up to 100 pounds (45 kg) of plate or chain link armour in addition to swords, lances and other weapons.[13] The overwhelming dependency on iron for military purposes spurred iron production and extraction processes.

The silver crisis of 1465 occurred when all mines had reached depths at which the shafts could no longer be pumped dry with the available technology.[14] Although an increased use of banknotes, credit and copper coins during this period did decrease the value of, and dependence on, precious metals, gold and silver still remained vital to the story of medieval mining.

Due to differences in the social structure of society, the increasing extraction of mineral deposits spread from central Europe to England in the mid-sixteenth century. On the continent, mineral deposits belonged to the crown, and this regalian right was stoutly maintained. But in England, royal mining rights were restricted to gold and silver (of which England had virtually no deposits) by a judicial decision of 1568 and a law in 1688. England had iron, zinc, copper, lead, and tin ores. Landlords who owned the base metals and coal under their estates then had a strong inducement to extract these metals or to lease the deposits and collect royalties from mine operators. English, German, and Dutch capital combined to finance extraction and refining. Hundreds of German technicians and skilled workers were brought over; in 1642 a colony of 4,000 foreigners was mining and smelting copper at Keswick in the northwestern mountains.[15]

Use of water power in the form of water mills was extensive. The water mills were employed in crushing ore, raising ore from shafts, and ventilating galleries by powering giant bellowsBlack powder was first used in mining in SelmecbányaKingdom of Hungary (now Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia) in 1627.[16] Black powder allowed blasting of rock and earth to loosen and reveal ore veins. Blasting was much faster than fire-setting and allowed the mining of previously impenetrable metals and ores.[17] In 1762, the world’s first mining academy was established in the same town there.

The widespread adoption of agricultural innovations such as the iron plowshare, as well as the growing use of metal as a building material, was also a driving force in the tremendous growth of the iron industry during this period. Inventions like the arrastra were often used by the Spanish to pulverize ore after being mined. This device was powered by animals and used the same principles used for grain threshing.[18]

Much of the knowledge of medieval mining techniques comes from books such as Biringuccio’s De la pirotechnia and probably most importantly from Georg Agricola‘s De re metallica (1556). These books detail many different mining methods used in German and Saxon mines. A prime issue in medieval mines, which Agricola explains in detail, was the removal of water from mining shafts. As miners dug deeper to access new veins, flooding became a very real obstacle. The mining industry became dramatically more efficient and prosperous with the invention of mechanical and animal driven pumps.

Classical Philippine civilization[edit]

See also: Cultural achievements of pre-colonial Philippines

The image of a Maharlika class of the Philippine Society, depicted in Boxer Codexthat the Goldused as a form of Jewelry(ca.1400).

Mining in the Philippines began around 1000 BC. The early Filipinos worked various mines of gold, silver, copper and iron. Jewels, gold ingots, chains, calombigas and earrings were handed down from antiquity and inherited from their ancestors. Gold dagger handles, gold dishes, tooth plating, and huge gold ornaments were also used. In Laszlo Legeza’s “Tantric elements in pre-Hispanic Philippines Gold Art”, he mentioned that gold jewelry of Philippine origin was found in Ancient Egypt. According to Antonio Pigafetta, the people of Mindoro possessed great skill in mixing gold with other metals and gave it a natural and perfect appearance that could deceive even the best of silversmiths. The natives were also known for the jewelries made of other precious stones such as carnelian, agate and pearl. Some outstanding examples of Philippine jewelry included necklaces, belts, armlets and rings placed around the waist.

The Americas

Mining in Old days

Lead mining in the upper Mississippi River region of the U.S., 1865.

During prehistoric times, large amounts of copper was mined along Lake Superior‘s Keweenaw Peninsula and in nearby Isle Royale; metallic copper was still present near the surface in colonial times. Indigenous peoples used Lake Superior copper from at least 5,000 years ago; copper tools, arrowheads, and other artifacts that were part of an extensive native trade network have been discovered. In addition, obsidianflint, and other minerals were mined, worked, and traded. Early French explorers who encountered the sites made no use of the metals due to the difficulties of transporting them, but the copper was eventually traded throughout the continent along major river routes.


Leave a Reply