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Drift Mining Ore Deposits

In an underground mine, drift mining is used to access ore deposits. This involves cutting horizontal and subhorizontal development openings, called drifts, into the side of the earth, instead of digging vertical tunnels.

Drift mining is commonly used when ore deposits are on a mountainside. Horizontal drifts are dug just below the mineral vein and are driven at an angle, so that gravity moves the materials downhill, making them easier to extract.

Key fact: Drift mining was commonly used during the early days of the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-1899)

There are two main types of drifts: footwall drifts, which run parallel to the ore deposit, and crosscuts, which run across the footwall and orebody.

These development openings can be used for haulage, ventilation, and exploration. There are five operations involved in excavating and extending drifts in underground mines: drilling, blasting, loading and hauling, scaling, and reinforcing.

Drift mining is a more economical and less invasive way of extracting precious minerals like gold, coal, quartz, and zinc. It also refers to the working of coal seams by driving horizontal or sub-horizontal passageways, known as adits, through the outcrop.


  • Economical recovery

  • Less invasive than tunnelling

  • Easier to transport ore and equipment

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