The importance of mining to human existence over the years cannot be overemphasized. Mining is the extraction of mineral substances in solid, liquid, or gas state from the earth. Mining is an activity that involves the extraction of mineral resources. It is important to understand the extracting processing and use of mineral resources and how mineral resources are vital for environmental development.
Mineral resources are needed in our everyday lives. The materials gotten from mineral resources are used to enhance environmental development.
Mineral resources include:
• Ores: they are referred to as metallic ores of ferrous metal such as iron, base metals like zinc, radioactive minerals such as radium, and precious metal such as silver.
• Industrial minerals: industrial minerals are non-metallic minerals. Examples of these are Phosphorus and Sulfur.
• Mineral fuels: Mineral fuels are called fossil fuels because they are organic mineral substances that are used as fuels. An example is a petroleum.
• Building stones
Mineral resources are not evenly distributed on earth. This is as a result of geological diversity. (Calas, 2017). Some countries have more mineral resources than in other countries. The unequal distribution of deposits led to an increase in the transportation of ores globally. Mineral resources are non-renewable, unlike other resources. This means that they are irreplaceable when mined out. (Coates, 1985).
The extracting processing and use of mineral resources are of key importance today but the extraction processing has adverse effects on the environment. It can affect the air quality, surface and underground water quality, soil, vegetation, human and animal life, and aesthetics.
For example, sulfuric acid is caused when sulfur is newly exposed to water and oxygen at the surface. When rain falls on the surface, it becomes acidic and poses danger when it runs off. This can kill organisms in streams and rivers.
Extraction of Mineral Resources
Mining is done through a series of geological processes. Extracting the processing of minerals is done in stages. The stages are:
Mineral resources can be deposited over and below the earth's surface. Prospecting is a pre-requisite in the extraction of minerals. It involves searching for mineral resources. It can be done directly or indirectly. The direct prospective technique is usually used to search for mineral resources on the surface earth. This technique examines the outcrop of a deposit and the loose floats that are weathered away from the outcrop. The location of minerals can be done using techniques like aerial photography, structural analysis of the area, and geological maps.
The indirect technique employs the use of geophysics. Geophysics is a science that helps to discover deviations. It uses electric, magnetic, electromagnetic variations of the earth. Satellites and aircraft are employed to carry out the methods in the air.
Geochemistry and Geobotany can also be utilized. Geochemistry is the quantitative examination of various samples of soils, rocks, and water while Geobotany involves examining the growth pattern of plants.
This uses various measurements to get an overall analysis of the grade, size, and value of the mineral deposit in surface locations. This enables the geologist to know how much tonnes the mineral deposit is and how rich is the mineral deposit. Exploration makes it possible to determine how much mineral deposits cost and measurement of the recovery of valuable materials.
This is the stage that begins the opening of mineral deposits for exploitation. The deposit has to be assessed either by creating excavations of the surface openings to get in contact with the hidden deposits below the surface of the earth or by getting rid of the soil or rock covering the deposit to expose a near-surface ore.
Some things have to be done before development takes place. They include;
• Water rights acquisition
• Mineral rights acquisition
• Application for permits
This is the stage that involves the recovery of minerals from the earth. The characteristics of the deposit, technology, safety limitations will determine the type of technique that will be used for exploitation. Exploitation could be surface or underground.
• Surface Mining: this exploitation method is widely accepted and used worldwide. It could be Strip mining (open pit or open cast) or aqueous mining. Large capital is required to adopt strip mining but it is safe and it has a low operating cost. The aqueous method depends on the liquid.
• Underground Mining: it could be unsupported, supported, or caving. Unsupported underground mining doesn't make use of artificial pillars to support the openings because of the strong surrounding rocks. Supported underground mining is used when the surrounding rocks are weak. Caving Underground mining involves overlying rocks.
This involves closing the mine and restoring the water and land values.
The production process of the development and exploitation stage involves drilling, blasting, loading, and hauling.
Common Mineral Resources and their Uses
• Sulfur: sulfur is used in manufacturing sulfuric acid, black gun powder, black rubber vulcanization, fungicides and to treat skin conditions.
• Gold: Gold is used to make jewelry, it is used in medicine and dentistry to create artificial golden tooth, it is used in making electronic equipment and it is used in electroplating industries as an electrolyte.
• Iron: Iron is used in the manufacturing of various types of steel, magnets, paints, and tracer elements.
• Clay: clay is used for walls, floors, cement, and brick.
• Lead: batteries, tanks, soldiers, electronics, x-ray, and ballasts
• Zinc: galvanizing, alloys, agriculture, medicine, paint, and rubber factories.
• Petroleum: asphalt, fuel, synthetics, plastics, and detergents.
• Silver: coins, electronics, photography, medals, jewelry, magnet winding, catalyst, circuit boards, a distillation of water, cell phone covers, batteries, and silverware.
• Copper: cables, plumbing, switches, heating, and roofing.
• Potash: fertilizer, and medicine.
Mineral resources are used as raw materials for construction to build and maintain the environment, they are also used for transportation infrastructure. Mineral resources are used for the manufacturing of consumer goods, and they are also used for electricity generation.
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