Mining is the process of extracting minerals from the earth for human benefit. The main means of mining includes extracting minerals from deep underground, or removing them using surface-level mines, or open pits. A mineral is typically defined as an inorganic substance that often has value due to its physical properties. Other substances extracted from the earth, such as gas and fuel, are not considered minerals and are removed through drilling, rather than mining.

Some minerals are ore—a single mineral or combination of minerals that can be processed to create a metal, like gold. Others cannot be made into metals. These include coal and quartz. Minerals are typically found in a vein—a concentration of the mineral in a line between surrounding rocks. Before mining actually begins, prospectors survey areas looking for mineral deposits. Mineral deposits are then explored, in order to assess them for economic value and content. Then the mine is developed, and the minerals are removed.

Archaeologists have discovered mines that date back to prehistoric times. Prehistoric people mined flint to craft it into sharp tools and weapons. Other materials, such as red ochre, were mined to create pigments that could be used for painting. Later, people learned how to mine gold and copper, which they could shape into useful or decorative objects. Early people, such as the ancient Egyptians, also mined stone for building.

During ancient times, humans provided all the labor and skill involved in mining. Today, advanced technology allows humans to extract minerals at a depth and rate that early people could never have dreamed of. Gold, for example, has been extracted from as deep as 3,960 meters (13,000 feet) underground.

Mining
Throughout history, minerals, like copper, have been extracted from the earth for human use. It is still mined in places like this open-pit mine outside of Silver City, New Mexico, in the United States.
archaeologist
Noun

person who studies artifacts and lifestyles of ancient cultures.

crystal
Noun

type of mineral that is clear and, when viewed under a microscope, has a repeating pattern of atoms and molecules.

extract
Verb

to pull out.

inorganic
Adjective

composed of material that is not living, and never was, such as rock.

mineral
Noun

inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.

Noun

process of extracting ore from the Earth.

ochre
adjective, noun

orange-yellow color.

Noun

deposit in the Earth of minerals containing valuable metal.

prehistoric
Adjective

period of time that occurred before the invention of written records.

prospector
Noun

person who searches or mines land for precious metals.