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MINING. What Are Minerals?. A MINERAL is any naturally occurring, pure, non-living substance found in the rocks of the earth. Minerals can be divided into 3 categories Metallic Minerals Fossil Fuels Industrial Minerals. Metallic Minerals.

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What Are Minerals?

  • A MINERAL is any naturally occurring, pure, non-living substance found in the rocks of the earth.

  • Minerals can be divided into 3 categories

    • Metallic Minerals

    • Fossil Fuels

    • Industrial Minerals

Metallic Minerals

  • When metallic minerals are purified, they are the metals we use everyday.

  • Metallic minerals need to have some quality that we value to be considered valuable

    • Beauty (gold, silver)

    • Strength (iron)

    • Conducts electricity (copper)

    • Light and strong (aluminum, tin)

Fossil Fuels

  • Fossil fuel is the remnant of biotic material.

  • Coal was one of the first important fossil fuels

    • Coal, put under sufficient pressure for sufficient time, morphs into diamonds

  • Oil and natural gas are now the most popular forms of fossil fuels

  • Fossil fuel mining requires oil rigs, or other pumping mechanisms

Industrial Minerals

  • Industrial minerals are any mined minerals that are not metallic or fossil in nature

  • As the name implies, these are minerals primarily used in industry

  • Asbestos – protects from fire and heat

  • Potash – used to make fertilizer

  • Gypsum – makes drywall

  • Diamond – not just for jewellery; used as a cutting tool as well

Where Do We Find the Minerals?

  • Saskatchewan – world’s largest potash deposits

  • Quebec – major asbestos mines

  • Northwest Territories – diamonds

Importance of Mining

  • Canada is the third largest producer of minerals in the world

    • United States, Russia are larger

  • Largest EXPORTER or minerals

    • 80% of what we mine we export

  • $83 Billion dollars (2001)

  • Helped to develop road and rail systems

    • Needed to reach the far-flung deposits

How Do We Find Minerals?

  • Mineral deposits that are economical to develop are called MINERAL RESERVES

  • Metallic minerals are found in IGNEOUS and METAMORPHIC rocks (like on the Canadian Shield)

  • In the earth the minerals we want are mixed with other compounds (like rock, other minerals, etc). This mixture is called ORE.

  • A MAGNETOMETER generates a magnetic field which ore such as nickel, iron and copper respond to.

  • Satellite images and aerial photos give geologists geomorphologic clues.

  • Satellites can also be used to create thermal images, infra-red images, and other imaging which various minerals respond to.

  • Once a likely spot has been located, geologists will drill CORE SAMPLES

  • Using this method, they can locate the edges of the reserve

Mining Methods

  • Most mines are located in remote areas

  • If the ORE BODY is relatively near the surface, the mining company may choose to STRIP or PIT mine.

  • If the ore body is deep inside the earth, UNDERGROUND or SHAFT mining will be used

    • This method is more difficult, more dangerous and more expensive

Strip Mining

  • Used to mine minerals like coal and oil sands that develop in horizontal layers.

  • OVERBURDEN is removed

  • Ore is shovelled onto trucks or conveyor belts

  • The ore is removed for processing

Draw a Diagram of a Strip Mine

Pit Mining

  • Similar to Strip mining, but used when the ore body extends downward rather than outward

  • Overburden is removed

  • Explosives blast apart the ore

  • The ore is put onto trucks and trucked out of the mine for processing

Draw a Diagram of a Pit Mine

Underground/ Shaft Mining

  • Used to get at ore deep in the earth

  • A SHAFT is sunk into the earth at the edge of the ore body

  • Horizontal tunnels, called ADITS or DRIFTS are dug into the body

    • This is where the ore is removed from

    • The chamber at the end of the adit is the STOPE

  • The rock in the stope is blasted apart with explosives

    • The rubble is called MUCK

  • The muck is transported to an ORE PASS where it falls into a CRUSHER

  • As the name implies, the crusher crushes the ore into smaller pieces

  • It is funnelled down another ore pass into a SKIP where it is hoisted to the surface and sent for processing

Label the Diagram of a Shaft Mine

Processing Minerals

  • Metallic mineral ore need to be purified before it is useful

  • MILLING separates the mineral from the majority of the waste

    • Usually a physical proceedure

  • SMELTING involves heating the remainder until the compounds separate. The metal will generally sink to the bottom of the furnace, where a tap will drain it off


  • The waste material produced by mills and smelters is called TAILINGS

  • Tailings are often toxic, ugly or otherwise difficult to deal with

  • A HUGE issue facing the mining industry today is how to safely get rid of the tailings

  • What are some of the other issues the mining industry must face?

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