Space Mining

space miningWhy Space Mining?

Space mining is growing in popularity and planning because it is the best method for continuing Earth’s expansion into space, and future colonization in space. While this may sound like science fiction, many companies are beginning to plan their ventures into space, and fine-tune the details of how space mining would work. Humans are drawn to the unknown, and are ever expanding into the new and unknown, and space is the ultimate final frontier of adventure and exploration. By expanding into space, we can expand our own knowledge. Another, more tangible reason for space mining, is it will provide the basis for colonization of space. As the earth continues to overpopulate, the need for more room for humans will continue to grow.

Asteroid mining may be able to provide the necessary materials for expanding into space without requiring the lengthy shuttle journey to bring new supplies. It is believed that there could possibly trillions of dollars worth of minerals and metals on asteroids located around the Earth.

What could Asteroids contain?

Many scientists believe that asteroids are made from the leftover materials from the formation of the solar system, or from the destruction of planets and other large entities in space. There are three main types of asteroids, c-types, s-types, and m-types. C-types make up 75% of all asteroids, and are similar to the composition of the sun, but without the hydrogen, helium, and other volatile materials. S-type asteroids make up about 17% of asteroids, and contain nickel, iron, and magnesium. M-type asteroids are the final type, and are the smallest group of asteroids. They contain nickel and iron. Beyond these materials, scientists believe that asteroids contain gold, water, oxygen, and platinum. Water and oxygen are important to scientists, because they may be able to form the basis for easier colonization of the moon, and possible asteroid mining expeditions. Gold and platinum are both valuable metals on Earth, and would be gladly mined and used on Earth.

How to sustain Space Mining?

Space mining will be one of the most complex and complicated expeditions to plan and complete because of the unique physics in space versus the Earth. The machines working the asteroid mines would be more than likely solar powered so as to reduce reliance on fuel. The machinery would also probably be lightweight in order to be easily transported from the Earth to the asteroid in question. It is also believed that many companies would opt for robotic equipment, which would limit the need for human personnel on the asteroid manning equipment. By limiting the amount of human personnel, the amount of food, clothing, and oxygen supplies will also be greatly reduced, as there will be no one to supply. Mining companies would probably use the same strip-mining techniques that they use on Earth in order to excavate the materials. Because asteroids do not have any gravity, the machinery must be anchored down into the asteroid to keep them in place without having them fly away.

Types of Mining

miningMining is an often misunderstood topic and job in the world today. Mining is an invaluable aspect of the economy, and leads the way for growth in almost every other industry. Technology, medical industries, and even nutrition rely on the minerals, metals, and gems that mining can provide. Because of this, it is important to understand the different methods of mining, and what method is required to safely and effectively excavate the required mineral or metals are required. Mining has vastly advanced to be as safe and effective as possible for those working in the field. In this article we will introduce you to the basics of some of the different methods of mining, and what materials they are most commonly used to find and produce.

Placer Mining

Placer Mining works by using a large, strong jet or stream of water to evacuate and recover heavy materials from Placer deposits in the ground. For example, gold bearing sands are often sifted using this method. Common materials which are mined using this method are gold, platinum, tin, diamonds, titaniferous and ferrous iron sands, minor amounts of chromite, scheelite, columbite, monzonite, gemstones, and abrasives. Common types of placer mining include panning, dredging, and sluicing.

Hydraulic Mining

Hydraulic mining is similar to placer mining in that it uses water, but it is not the same. Hydraulic mining uses a powerful jet stream of water to dislodge minerals in unconsolidated materials. It is used in mine tailings, placer deposits, alluvium mining, as well as for laterites and saprolites. It can also be applied to consolidated materials from sandstone when it is sent though coal to hard rock. It works by breaking down a material, and suspending it in what is known as a slurry.

Hard Rock Mining

Hard Rock Mining digs into solid rock in order to get fine materials in their ore forms. This type of mining uses tools like picks, shovels, drills, and dynamite. Shafts are built when the miners need to go down into the ground to get into veins of the desired minerals. Tunnels can also be built horizontally into rock faces to get access to materials closer to the surface. It is mainly used to find hard minerals and metals like gold, silver, iron, copper, zinc, nickel, tin, and lead. It can also be used to harvest diamonds in certain situations.

Open Pit Mining

Open Pit Mining is used when extracting rock or minerals through an open pit. It can be used when useful or desired minerals are found near the surface. They are more commonly known as quarries. Some quarries build benches into the pit, which are sued to describe the vertical levels of the pit, giving miners a sense of how far they are going down. Almost all open pit mines are dug at an angle that is less than vertical. This is done in order to minimize the dangers of rock falling or caving in on the miners.

Common Mining Materials

Aluminum

Aluminum is one of the most abundant metal elements that can be found in the Earth’s upper crust. It comes from an oxide name alumina, and the main source of aluminum is an ore called Bauxite. It is most commonly imported around the world from Jamaica, Guinea, Brazil, and Guyana. Aluminum has a wide-ranging list of uses, which can include use in the automobile industry, construction, electrical uses, and all types of machinery. Aluminum is one of the most useful metals in the United States, but is not widely produced and must be imported into the country.

Chromite

Chromite is most commonly produced in South Africa, Kazakhstan, and India. The United States imports chromite from these countries in a variety of forms, including chromite ore, chromium ferroalloys, chromium metals chromite chemicals, and stainless steel. It has a variety of uses in many industries, most commonly used in super alloys, chemical industries, and metallurgical industries. It is commonly found as a mineral layer in ultramafic igneous rocks. Placer deposits are the typical geographic setting in which you can find chromite. It can also be found in many meteorites in space. On average, the United States consumers about 6% of all chromite ore.

Copper

The leading producers of copper are Chile, Peru, China, the United States, and Australia. The United States has copper mines in multiple states, including Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Montana. Copper also has a wide variety of uses, and is invaluable to many industries. It can be used in construction, electronics, transportation, roofing, machinery, and alloys. More recently, it has been used in the medical industry because it is a strong and sterile metal that can be used in a variety of uses for better patient care.

Zinc

The leading producers of zinc in the world are China, Australia, Peru, and the Untied States of America. Zinc also leaves a variety of co-products, some of which are lead, sulfuric acid, cadmium, silver, gold, and germanium. Zinc is one of the most widely used minerals. It can be used in steel protective coatings, die-casting, rubber products, paint products, electroplating, metal spraying, automotive parts, automining materialsmobiles, electrical products, batteries, nutrition, chemicals, and medicine. Zinc is an adaptable and can used for almost any industry. It is innovative, and new uses for it are being found around the world on a regular basis.

Titanium

The top producers of titanium are China, Japan, Russia, and Kazakhstan. It can be used in a variety of forms, each with its own unique purpose and uses. Titanium mineral concentrates are used to primarily make titanium dioxide pigment. Producers import most of their titanium from China, Japan, Russia, and Kazakhstan. It can also be used in rod coatings, aerospace applications, armor, chemical processing, and has wide reaching medical applications. Titanium is famous in many science fiction novels as the metal of choice for many weapons and shield technology, although their uses are not applicable to the real world.

Coal Mining

Coal MiningWhat is Coal?

Coal is a fossil fuel that is made out of the altered remains of prehistoric vegetation that was accumulated in what used to be swamps and peat bogs. The energy that coal provides comes from the solar energy that was absorbed by the vegetation when it was alive. The decaying of the vegetation is interrupted, and the energy that the plant held inside is still stored inside of the plant, and remains when the vegetation is processed into coal. The prehistoric vegetation is changed into coal when silt builds up and tectonic movements work together to bury the swamps and peat bogs that held the vegetation. The plant material is placed under high pressure and high temperatures which transforms it into peat, and then coal.

Types of Coal

There are four major types of coal that can be used for a variety of uses and have different qualities and characteristics. Lignite, or more commonly known as brown coal, is coal which has low organic maturity, and high moisture levels. It is the first stage of coal after peat, and is a softer and lighter color.  The next stage of coal is the sub-bituminous stage. More temperature and pressure is applied to lignite, which raises the organic maturity of the coal, while reducing the moisture level it contains. However, it still contains a high level of moisture and is not organically mature enough to be considered coal yet. The next stage is known as the bituminous, or hard coal stage. It is harder and blacker than other stages of coal, and has a high organic maturity level and lower moisture levels. Finally, the anthracite stage is when coal is fully organically mature and has a very low moisture level.

Where is Coal found?

Scientists have estimated that around 861 billion tons of proven coal reserves can be found all around the world. Coal reserves can be found in almost every country in the world. The biggest reserves can be found in four countries, the United States, Russia, China, and India. However, this does not mean that these same countries are the top producers of coal in the world. Because coal was created in environments that do not exist in the same places anymore, it requires geological studies to find exactly where they are located in a country.

Coal Mining

Coal mining is a vital part of the world’s current power source market. 6185 million tons of hard coal are produced throughout the world every year, as well as 1042 million tons of lignite. The top five producers of coal are China, the United States, India, Australia, and South Africa. However, only about 15% of all coal produced enter the international coal market. The rest of the  coal is consumed by the country which produced it. There are two general types of mining used to extract coal, surface mining, also known as open pit mining, or underground mining, also known as deep mining. The type of mining used us determined by the geology of the deposit.

Common Mining Jobs

mining jobsMining is a complicated and often misunderstood topic, but it is also an important aspect of keeping a strong, flourishing economy. Beyond the many vital minerals and other materials that can only be found through mining, it also provides a wide variety of jobs, and a lot of them. A single mine can employ hundreds of people in jobs ranging from the foreman of the crew to the electrician. Before discounting mining as outmoded, it should be considered that it provides the economy with much needed jobs, putting people to work and money back into the economy.

Blaster

A blaster is someone who safely handles explosives, load and tie them into blast patterns, and can calculate the amount of explosives used, as well as the tonnage of rocks that were broken by the explosion. Blasters must have strong written and verbal communication skills in order to effectively communicate with their coworkers, and fill out their reports. In order to be qualified for this position, applicants must have at least their high school diploma or GED, and at least one to two years of experience as a laborer on a powder crew. Applicants are also expected to attend blasting school in order to gain their state certified blasting license.

Electrician

Electricians on mine sites are expected to participate in electrical construction, the instrumentation of electrical construction, and repairs on the electrical mining equiptment. It is expected that mining electricians are capable of using electrical hand tools, power tools, and all of the electrical test equipment. Applicants must also know the basics of Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC), electrical theory, and how to read and create schematics and blueprints. A minimum of a high school diploma or GED, and experience in electrical fields is required. There are a variety of trade schools which can help in training.

Environmental Technician

Environmental technicians conduct water, soil, and air monitoring activities, and work on computer data entry and activity documentation. It is an entry-level position, but has a lot of room for advancement into a variety of positions. However, all advancement requires a college degree. A minimum of a high school diploma or GED and at least two years of experience in mining is expected. Applicants must also be in good physical condition, and must have good communication skills in order to fulfill the requirements of this job.

Mechanic

Mechanics on mine sites work on diagnosing the health of the machinery, documents all repairs and changes. They are in charge of the overall health of all of the mobile equipment on the site. Mechanics are trained on the operation of all of the equipment that is used on the mining site. The most common machines and equipment that are used on mine sites that the mechanics are in charge of are loaders, trucks, graders, dozers, pickups, cranes, and forklifts. They must know the proper use of tools and repair equipment, and have the skills for minor welding. A minimum of a high school diploma or GED and two years of experience in mobile equipment repair is required.