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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Difference between Mining, Quarrying & Prospecting

Mining, Quarrying & Prospecting are one of man’s oldest endeavors from the time he picked up the first rock from the surface of the earth.  That simple action, a form of surface mining started the whole practice of mining that has come down thru time to the present.  Mining over the years since the first man picked up that first rock has divided into a many faceted industry.  What used to be as simple as bending over and picking up a pebble has burgeoned into the monstrous endeavor of today with their great mining machines.  Some of these machines are so big they will boggle your mind.  Today’s mining industry has come along way since its simple beginnings.  Now we have the vast pits from surface mining, other mines are deep underground sometimes miles into the earth.  Most of these mines are developed to produce minerals of value either metal ores or industrial minerals.

Quarrying no doubt is the senior practice of extracting materials from the earth unlike a mine the quarry operator is more intent on extracting earth materials whether they be stone, sand & gravel, or clay.  These earth materials require little or no work to prepare them for the market and their ultimate use.  Many of these materials are used in the construction industry where they are often termed building materials.  As a rule they are sold as-is straight from the quarry in what is called crushed stone where the rock is crushed into small fragments or as dimension stone where the stone stays as it is from the quarry although some of this stone is “dressed” for its final use.  Some quarries are called cement quarries where the product is crushed then put through a rotary kiln to produce Portland cement.  Producing sand & gravel production is another form quarrying where the earth materials are already reduced to fragments by natural action requiring nothing more then to be screened and washed, loaded and put on a truck.  Clay is another product of quarrying where the clay is used for brick making or ceramics.

Neither of these operations would exist if it were not for the prospector.  He is often pictured by the public as a bearded old cuss leading a donkey through the desert with a load of tools and supplies on the donkey with a gold pan in his other hand looking for the next strike.  This picture of a prospector is a far cry from this popular picture.  The prospector is someone that goes out into often unexplored territory searching for gold or some other mineral.  In the past he used his eyes examining every outcrop or tested the gravel deposits carefully in every stream looking for paydirt.  Today’s prospector often goes by the name of “exploration geologist with a whole plethora of electronic instruments to aid him in his search, but the two most valuable tools are his eyes, a pick and shovel and a gold pan.