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Surface Mining Techniques

Surface mining is a broad term that includes techniques used to extract minerals near the Earth’s surface.

One technique is strip mining, where the overburden is removed using dozers, draglines, or scrapers, depending on the terrain. Horizontal trenches are then dug for the removal of materials.

Open-pit mining involves creating a vertical pit from which materials are extracted. After the extraction, any non-ore material is returned to the pit during mine reclamation.

Dredging extracts minerals beneath the water table, using small dredges to suck them up from the water. Dredging and open pit mining are also used to retrieve sand, which accounts for the largest volume of solid material extracted worldwide.

Key fact: Sand extraction accounts for 70-80% of the 50 billion tons of materials mined per year

Meanwhile, mountaintop removal is a surface mining technique for extracting coal seams from the summit of a mountain.

Once the economic strip limit of a surface mining operation has been reached, highwall mining can recover more coal. Here, a remotely operated miner makes an entry into the coal seam. Conveyors are then used to transport the cut coal to the outside.

Benefits

  • Cheaper than underground mining

  • Higher recovery rate

  • Safer operations

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