Mining From the Earliest Times to the Present dates back to prehistoric times. Humans have for thousands of years been digging into the earth, seeking wealth and products that can be useful in everyday life.

The Neanderthal species of early man probably mined flint, which was used in making tools, but the oldest known mine is located in what is today the African nation of Swaziland. Using radiocarbon dating techniques, the mine was found to be more than 40,000 years old. It was at this site that the mineral hematite, used in making jewelry, was apparently mined. Another early mine is the Grimes Graves site, actually a complex of more than 400 separate shafts, which is located near Brandon, England. Flint was excavated at the mine some 5,000 years ago for use in making stone axes. The miners there used a comparatively sophisticated system of wooden ladders and platforms and employed wooden shovels and picks made of deer antler to remove the flint from the chalk base.

Ancient Egyptians mined the mineral malachite, used in making pottery. Mining at the time employed fire to heat the rock face. Later, the Romans put to use hydraulic mining methods, using the pressure of water brought in by aqueduct systems to dislodge rocks and sediment. In medieval Europe, open-pit mining was widely used to extract materials near the surface of the earth. Around this time, the demand for iron greatly increased, leading to improved mining techniques. Among these was the use of water power to both crush ore and raise it from the ground.

The Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 18th Century, led to the massive mining of ore products of many different kinds, and which would be used in many different ways. It was during the 19th Century that mining established itself as a major industry in the U.S. It also became a popular personal endeavor half-way through the century, with the California Gold Rush. The development of the railroads played a major role in the expansion of the mining industry by enhancing the transportation of mined products.

Today, mining is a “high-tech” industry, employing such sophisticated equipment as seismographs to search for minerals and bulldozers, drills and huge trucks to carry out the actual excavation. One of the great concerns today is the effect of mining on the environment. Developing techniques that are compatible with the environment has become one of the great challenges in modern mining.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *