What’s Underground Mining?

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Underground mining involves digging into the ground to extract minerals and ores, often used when surface mining is not an option. It requires logistics to be safe and uses machinery to avoid health and safety hazards. Ventilation and proper support are important, with different types of mining including well and slope mining.

Underground mining is a technique used to access valuable minerals and ores in the ground by digging into the ground to extract them. This is in contrast to techniques such as open pit mining, in which the surface layers of the soil are excavated to access deposits, or mountaintop removal, in which the top of a mountain is simply shaved off to access the mineral inside. When people think of mining, they often visualize mining underground, and many people think of coal mining in particular, although numerous products can be mined underground, with some of the deepest mines in the world being used to access gold deposits .

Companies choose to use underground mining when ore deposits are so buried that surface mining is not an option. This requires a lot of logistics to be safe, even with the highly mechanized nature of modern underground mining. Especially with soft ores, much of the work is done by machine, not people, but it is still important to avoid over-mine subsidence, mine collapse, explosions and an assortment of other health and safety hazards.

The first step in underground mining is mining, where shafts are dug at the site to make the ore accessible. During this stage, things like electricity are installed along with the shafts, along with lifts and shoring to support the walls of the mine so it doesn’t collapse. Once the mine has been developed, active production mining can begin, with ore being mined by hand, machine, or a mixture of the two.

In well mining, a shaft is dug directly into the Earth to access buried deposits. People enter and exit the mine via elevators in the shaft, and additional shafts can be dug to create emergency exits and meet ventilation needs. In slope mining, an inclined shaft is dug so that people access the mine by descending a slope. Motorized equipment is usually used so people can get in and out of the mine quickly.

One of the main needs of underground mines is ventilation. Ventilation is needed to remove dust, combustion byproducts and explosion byproducts, along with gases that may be trapped in pockets within the Earth. Proper support to prevent collapses is also quite important, as are redundant safety systems that include worker alarms, evacuation shafts, emergency lighting, and so on.

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