Surface mining involves extracting minerals that are near the Earth’s surface, or are too structurally unstable for tunneling. It’s a broad term that includes strip mining and open-pit mining.
With strip mining, the overburden (or top layer of soil) is removed using dozers, draglines, or scrapers, depending on area geometry. Strip mining literally creates a horizontal ‘strip’ or trench from which materials are removed.
Meanwhile, open-pit mining creates a vertical pit to extract minerals from. With this method, non-ore material is stockpiled and returned to the pit after mining to restore the landscape. This process is called mine reclamation and is one reason why open-pit mining is favoured.
Key fact: Strip mining accounts for 40% of the world’s coal mines, but in some countries, like Australia, open-pit mines account for 80%
Hydraulic mining involves a powerful jet of water that’s used to dislodge minerals from rock formations. This method was widely used during the California Gold Rush, but its use in gold extraction has since been banned in many countries because of the amount of erosion it causes.
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