The 3 Stages Of Mine Establishment

The extraction of various minerals from the core of the earth is an activity that makes significant contributions to the economy. For this reason, mining companies are always looking for new areas in which there is an abundant occurrence of minerals below the ground that can support commercial exploration of such minerals.

There are various stages involved in the establishment of a new mine. This article discusses a few of these stages for the benefit of those studying to become mining engineers.

Mineral Exploration

Exploration is the first stage of the mine establishment process. During this stage, mine engineers and other mine workers seek to establish the presence (or lack thereof) of mineral deposits in the new area. Various techniques are used in the mine exploration stage, with some techniques being highly invasive (e.g. close spaced intensive drilling) while others are more subtle (e.g. using satellites for remote sensing of mineral deposits).

The Feasibility Study

Upon the positive identification mineral deposits, a mining company will undertake a feasibility study of the intended area of exploration to determine if the identified mineral deposits are sufficient for commercial exploration. During this study, mine engineers will commission an environmental impact assessment and a social impact assessment for the proposed mining-related activities on the site. The feasibility study helps in the identification of factors that may encourage the successful exploration of minerals and those that may pose a threat to mining-related activities in the new area.

Design And Planning

After the feasibility study reveals the possibility of commercial mineral exploration in an area, the planning and design phase of mine establishment process sets in.

Mine geologists and mine engineers often have the most important part to play in the planning and design phase of mine establishment. During this stage, the mentioned professionals work to come up with a mine systems design that will allow for mineral extraction at the lowest possible unit cost, in accordance with market specifications/demands and in compliance with environmental protection laws.

Results of the social impact assessment carried out during the feasibility study are also taken into consideration when planning and designing the (yet-to-be) established mine. For example, geologists and mine engineers need to think of the post-mining land uses that the immediate community might want to adopt and the aesthetic effect of mining-related activities on the land when determining the best location for waste storage facilities within the mine and the best location for access roads to the area of exploration.

Once the design and planning stage is over, the construction of the mine can commence.