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Introduction

Surface coal mining

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an orebody, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner.

Ores recovered by mining include metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones, limestone, chalk, dimension stone, rock salt, potash, gravel, and clay. Mining is required to obtain any material that cannot be grown through agricultural processes, or created artificially in a laboratory or factory. Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of any non-renewable resource such as petroleum, natural gas, or even water.

Mining of stones and metal has been a human activity since pre-historic times. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the land after the mine is closed. De Re Metallica, Georgius Agricola, 1550, Book I, Para. 1

Mining operations usually create a negative environmental impact, both during the mining activity and after the mine has closed. Hence, most of the world's nations have passed regulations to decrease the impact. Work safety has long been a concern as well, and modern practices have significantly improved safety in mines.

Levels of metals recycling are generally low. Unless future end-of-life recycling rates are stepped up, some rare metals may become unavailable for use in a variety of consumer products. Due to the low recycling rates, some landfills now contain higher concentrations of metal than mines themselves.

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Rhyolite.jpg
Rhyolite is a mining ghost town in Nye County, Nevada, United States. It is in the Bullfrog Hills, about 120 miles (190 km) northwest of Las Vegas, near the eastern edge of Death Valley. The town began in early 1905 after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills, leading to a gold rush. By 1907, Rhyolite had electric lights, water mains, telephones, an opera house, and a stock exchange, yet it declined almost as rapidly as it rose. The richest ore was quickly exhausted, and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the financial panic of 1907 made it more difficult to raise development capital. In 1908, the mining company's stock value crashed; it closed in 1911. By 1920, the population was close to zero, after which its buildings crumbled, were salvaged for building materials, or were moved to nearby Beatty. Rhyolite and its ruins have since become a tourist attraction.

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Bingham Canyon Mine 1942c.jpg
Credit: Andreas Feininger

Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah, United States, photographed in 1942.

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