What’s the advantage?

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Enrichment in mining increases profits by extracting as much recoverable material as possible from an ore deposit. Techniques include grinding, sorting, and suspending particles in water. Enrichment can make fringe mining facilities more practical and benefit communities by keeping profits in the country.

In the mining industry, enrichment is a process designed to improve the yield from an ore deposit. This increases the potential profits available from the ore and allows a business to increase the overall profitability of a mine and its operations in a particular area. A number of processes are used to achieve enrichment goals, and several companies that manufacture mining equipment have product lines designed to help companies get more out of their ore.

The goal of enrichment is to eliminate inefficiency and waste by ensuring that as much recoverable material as possible is extracted from the ore. A number of techniques can be used for this, often starting with grinding the ore into particles. Once ground, the particles can be sieved and sorted to extract usable material and set aside for waste. For example, particles can be suspended in water to allow the various components to separate, making usable mineral easier to access.

For rare resources, enrichment is key, because it takes advantage of every available scrap material. This practice can also make a fringe mining facility more practical than it might otherwise be, and can in fact be used to extract ore from a facility previously thought to be depleted. The potential for enrichment is also considered when evaluating potential mining sites, to determine whether or not the mine’s operating expenses will be outweighed by the mine’s products.

People interested in sustainable development and ethical business practices also use the term “benefit,” but in a slightly different way. Rather than meaning that the fullest potential of a resource has been exploited, benefit refers to business practices that benefit the communities where products are mined, harvested, and otherwise taken. Historically, large companies have tended to enter small communities, take resources and then leave, without any benefit to the population.

This practice of exploiting a community and then walking away has become frowned upon as a form of exploitation of people and national governments, making benefit increasingly popular. With benefit, a company does things like move some of its operations to the country where a product is harvested or mined, returning it to the community, and doing more work to keep some of the profits and benefits in the country. For example, if a business is mining opals, it might open a facility for cutting and polishing opals near the mine, rather than shipping them overseas for processing, to create more employment opportunities for the local community. Similarly, a logging company might operate a plant near the forest rather than ship raw timber overseas.

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