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Open-Pit Surface Mining

Open-pit mining is a surface mining technique that involves extracting minerals close to the surface from vertical pits. It’s the most common mining method in the world.

Materials extracted from open-pit mines include clay, coal, and copper. Open-pit mines that produce building materials and dimension stone, like limestone, granite, and marble, are called quarries.

Key fact: Bingham Canyon mine in Utah is the deepest open-pit mine in the world, over 1.2km deep and four kilometres wide

A range of heavy equipment is used during open-pit mining, including earthmovers like draglines and dozers. Blasthole drills are also important to excavation. Explosives are detonated inside a blasthole, causing the surrounding rock to crack so that deeper deposits can be reached.

Open-pit mining is favoured because of its minimal impact on the environment. During production and excavation, waste materials are stockpiled. Once mining is complete, these materials are returned to the pit in a process called mine reclamation. This restores the landscape and minimises environmental damage.

Open-pit mines also have fewer safety hazards than underground mining. There’s no risk of cave-ins or toxic gases, and most of the heavy equipment can now be automated.

Benefits

  • Lower CAPEX and OPEX

  • Safer operations

  • Minimal environmental damage

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