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A Brief History of Mining: The Advancement of Mining Techniques and Technology

Since civilization began, people have used mining techniques to access minerals in the earth. The citizens of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece all engaged in mining. In the earliest days, mining was slow-going and dangerous. However, as time has progressed, society has developed safer and more accurate methods of locating and uncovering substances found in the earth.

United States Mining History Prospector traveling by mule

  • In 1848, the first great gold rush occurred after gold was discovered in the United States.
  • In the mid-1800s, prospectors also made a significant amount of money mining for silver in Colorado.
  • In 1896, more gold was discovered in Alaska, inciting another gold rush to the Yukon River Valley.
  • Some coal mining began before 1900, but the most productive coal mining techniques didn’t develop until after the turn of the century.
  • In the 1960s, smaller coal companies merged into larger, more diversified firms.
  • In 2008, competition in the coal mining industry became more intense than ever, leading to a demand for better technology and new mines.

History of Mining Technology

In the beginning, miners used primitive tools for digging. Mining shafts were dug out by hand, and the entire process was very lengthy. Eventually, people began using fire to clear tunnels and reach greater depths at a faster rate. During the 1600s, miners started using explosives to break up large rocks. Motorized mining tools, such as drills, would not be invented for several more years. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution began in the 1700s that miners began improving the explosives they used and developing more advanced mining equipment, such as drills, lifts and steam-powered pumps.

Mining Technology in the Present

In today’s technologically-advanced society, mining techniques are always improving.  For example, using surface mining techniques, miners are now able to extract over 85 percent of minerals and 98 percent of metallic ores without digging a shaft or endangering the lives of workers. Newly-developed machines used for grinding and crushing can extract minerals from the earth with less energy than ever before.

Miners still use heavy machinery, such as explosives, trucks, drills and bulldozers, especially if they must dig deep into the earth. However, advances in technology have allowed miners to excavate with more accuracy and less harm to the surrounding environment. More efficient machinery can also be used to reduce energy consumption and improve the amount of minerals or metals gleaned from the shaft.

The history of mining is rich and complicated. Mining has led to great advancements for society, but the dangers of mining have also resulted in the deaths of many workers. As technology continues to advance, however, mining techniques become even more accurate and efficient. In the future, revolutionary technologies may eliminate the need for hands-on involvement from miners entirely.mining technology

  • Amy Donahue

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