Modern Mining: The Evolution of Mining Tools, Equipment, and Processes
The prospect of finding mineral treasures is one of the reasons colonists came to America. With the influx of people obsessed with striking it rich also came an increase in accidents – mining’s history is, in fact, fraught with disaster. But with the advent of new technology, advancements in the mining process and equipment soon followed, along with a decline in the number of mishaps.
In the Beginning
Immediately after settling in Virginia, the English set up ironworks. In the early 1600s, Captain John Smith thought he found the existence of gold in Virginia. They sent samples of the glittering dust to England. It turns out that it was nothing more than iron pyrites. This is what’s commonly known as fool’s gold. It wasn’t until 1799 that gold would be found on American soil for the first time.
Back then, miners used primitive tools to dig for minerals. They used explosives to break up rocks and dig holes. Pickaxes were used to pry minerals off cave walls. The mined minerals were then put into mine carts pushed manually in and out of the mining caves.
This haphazard process worsened during the California Gold Rush in 1848. With the invention of steam-powered pumps in the 1700s, miners began using these machines along with explosives. They also started using toxic chemicals like Mercury to extract gold. This caused significant damage to nature.
Authorities have put into place regulations that reduce the damage mining has done to the environment. Mining companies had to follow these laws in order for them to continue their operations.
With the regulations in place today, mining techniques are geared toward efficiency. Miners can now extract more minerals without irreversibly damaging the environment or endangering their lives. They use utility task vehicles like Argo. Mining equipment and vehicles are now designed to carry miners into all kinds of terrain. Explosives are still used, but with more accuracy and less harm to the environment.
With the modernization of technology comes a greater need for minerals. Electronics today need about 60 minerals before they become functional. This is why efficiency in current mining techniques is more important than ever. It’s a key to a sustainable source of minerals that people need.