What is mining?

By definition: Mining is the extraction (removal) of minerals and metals from earth. Gold, copper, tin, nickel, aluminium ore, iron ore, silver, manganese, and diamonds are just some examples of elements which are mined.

Why mine?

Mining is a money-making business: If an ore deposit is deemed to be commercially viable to mine, then it most likely will be. Not only do mining companies prosper, but governments also make money from those companies’ revenues. Mines employ a large workforce and many job opportunities are created as a result. Workers also receive competitive income and benefits.

What are the minerals and metals used for?

Minerals and metals are very valuable commodities. For example, purified gold is used in many industrial applications because of its electrical conducting capabilities. Gold is the element with the best electrical conducting capabilities. Manganese is a key component of low-cost stainless steel. It is also used to de-colour glass (removing greenish hues), but in higher concentrations, it makes lavender-coloured glass. Copper and tin are used to make pipes, cookware, etc.

Large scale mining:

Large scale mining usually involves a company with many employees, such as Pan African Resources mines. The company mines at one or two large sites and usually stays until the mineral or metal is completely excavated. An example of a large scale mine is the Serra Pelada mine in Brazil which yielded 29,000 tons of gold from 1980 to 1986 and employed 50,000 workers.

Mining companies are also classified according to their size and financial capabilities:

  • Major mining companies are those which have an annual mining-related revenue of more than R7.8 billion, with the financial capability to develop a major mine on their own.
  • Intermediate companies have at least R700 million in annual revenue but less than R1 billion.
  • Junior companies rely on equity financing as their principal means of funding exploration. These companies are mainly pure exploration companies, but their annual revenue seldom exceeds R500 million.