Mining is a process in which minerals and other substances of value are removed from the earth. Substances that are commonly mined are precious metals, coal, diamonds and rock together with many others. Oil, gas and water are also mined from the oceans, deserts and other areas.
It is not a new idea to mine for these substances and has been done since prehistoric times. Only the techniques and methods have changed in finding these substances. Today mining is able through sophisticated technology to dig and drill deeper and explore for all these valuable substances easier.
In the earliest ages of man, he made cutting tools out of flint, natural glasses and siliceous rocks that he found on or just below the surface of the earth. Copper that was fashioned also into tools and weapons was most likely the first metal to be mined; this was in about 7000 BC. Gold and natural silver were probably mined earlier than this.
3 main methods of exploration for metallic ores have been used over the years,geological, geophysicaland more recently geochemical. For the exploration of water in earlier times the divining rod was used and is still used to day quite successfully.
Geological prospecting can discover many kinds of resources and only in the last two hundred years has science improved on the older techniques. Information is brought together such as outcropdata, borehole data and core samples. Thesemining techniques have now enabled us to explore under the oceans to the sea floor. Some of the oldest techniques are those of magnetic and gravity prospecting where regional anomalies within the global magnetic or gravitational field are found indicating places where various substances may be found.
In the 18th century in Europe, a simple magnetic compass was used to find iron ore veins. Improvements were made on this technique in the 19th and 20th centuries to make exploration faster and enable exploration through magnetic surveys be done from the air.
In 1919, a salt dome was found in Texas by a seismic survey. This is sending shock waves into the ground by pounding the earth with giant vibration trucks or as in the past exploding small dynamite charges in shallow holes. Shock waves travel into the earth boundaries between the rocks, reflect the waves back and these waves are then detected by listening devices called geophones. The data is processed and converted into seismic lines which gives a two dimensional picture of the underground geology giving hopefully an oil bearing supply area.
However! Drilling is the only sure way to find out if an oil or gas field exists in an area.
Oil and gas have been used for centuries. Ancient cultures found petroleum by simply looking for oil seeps or gas seeps hoping they led to an adequate source nearby. The Chinese used natural gas to light their Imperial Palaces.
Tar was used by the Ancient Egyptians to cover their mummies. The word mummy is a derivation of the Arabic word for tar.
In part two, the final part, we will look at how modern day sophisticated technologies are brought into the exploration field of the mining industry.