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What Is The Difference Between Underground Mining And Surface Mining

There are two main ways that miners work worldwide with one being tunneling and the other being the extraction process above ground. When we think of mining, most of us think of the idea of underground mining but there are significant differences between the two methods.

Surface mining:

Surface mining involves the process of accessing the material through a hole in the earth’s surface. The mine is maintained and continually grows outward as the layers of bedrock are removed to access the ore. Surface mining works well with low grade ore deposits which can be found under a thin layer of rock. Gold mining throughout old river or stream beds is a great example of this type of surface mining.

Overburden or material on top of the ore is removed using ground moving equipment and then when the ore is exhausted the overburden is filled in over the land. Most mining sites will plant vegetation and resume water supply flow to the region to rebuild the ecosystem after mining.

Underground mining:

In underground mining the layer of rock or bedrock is kept in place and the miners will tunnel under the ground to access the ore. This is advantageous when there are high grade deposits of ore sitting deep under overburden. It can be more cost effective to tunnel to the ore rather than clear all the raw material on top.

Underground mining involves slowly building tunnels called drifts along the shaft to eventually access the ore. The longwall allows miners to enter into the facility and break up the ore deposit which can carry it back to the surface through mining carts.

Although they are very different types of mining, they can have various advantages to cost savings, labor use and the amount of ore that can be removed from a site. Depending on the location and type of ore however, one mining type may be detrimental to the environment or lead to worse productivity. Mining needs to be done based on the survey of materials, the type of ecosystem and the most cost efficient manner to remove the most desired material.

If you would like to learn more about surface and underground mining or the equipment involved, contact us today.

This post was written by Justin Tidd, Director at Becker/SMC. For nearly a half a century, Becker Mining has been at the forefront of safety, producing the best Portable Substation in the industry. Becker/SMC is the industry’s leader in increasingly more sophisticated electrical control systems. Most of the major innovations, design features and specialized electrical components have been developed by Becker/SMC.

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