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The mining industry has evolved over the past quarter-century—from an occupation that was once laborious, unpredictable and dangerous, to one that's better regulated and much more profitable.
Advancements in technology, improvements in working conditions, and the discovery of new materials worth mining help account for the industry's longevity.
Innovations in discovery and computation have catapulted the mining industry forward, using a variety of out-of-the-box methods:
Mobile Metal Ion Geochemistry: This advancement in mining uses a combination of soil samples, high-end equipment, and chemical ligands to detect material deposits that are deeply buried beneath the Earth's surface. Before MMI technology, locating deposits of this type was difficult, requiring additional man-hours to survey, speculate, and physically dig for discovery.
Geo-metallurgy: The science of geo-metallurgy is the process that follows the life of a mined material from discovery, through mining, and into production. It's a strategy that enables plant owners to better manage and predict outcomes throughout the lifetime of a mine. Using geo-metallurgy, workers have a better idea of what to expect during production—the type of material being mined, how best to process it, and how to better plan and prepare for future production.
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Working conditions in the mines have experienced vast improvement over the last 25 years, thanks, in part, to the formation and existence of several agencies:
Mine Safety and Health Administration: By definition, the MSHA was formed to help prevent the death, injury, and onset of disease in miners caused by their working environment. This is the agency that's currently working to eradicate the instances of black lung disease among miners with its 2014 implementation of the ‘Respirable Coal Dust Rule’. ‘The Respirable Coal Dust Rule’ seeks to limit miner’s exposure to the harmful dust that causes black lung disease by tightening the standards already in place.
Diamond Development Initiative: This organization was founded with the intention of improving the lives of diamond miners. It seeks to put organized standards into place regarding the working conditions, education, and treatment of individuals who earn their living digging for diamonds in such under-developed countries as Namibia.
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The ongoing discovery of mineable materials over the past quarter-century has helped to keep the industry alive and thriving:
Jumbo-Flake Graphite: High-tech applications such as lithium-ion batteries and the graphene used in cell phone production have made the graphite market attractive among investors. And the recent discovery of graphite mines in Tanzania, and large-flake graphite, in particular, has given the mining industry a solid boost.
Putnisite: Unofficially named for the mineralogists who discovered it in Australia in 2014, putnisite is a new mineral that appears to be unrelated to any existing minerals. While its properties are as yet untapped, scientists remain hopeful that a practical purpose will soon be found for this brittle, translucent discovery.
With innovations in technology and the improvement of working standards, we can only look forward to how far advancement in mining can actually go.
Sources and Further Reading