For many years since the pre-historic era, humans have been excavating the planet for nature’s valuables and resources such as metals, coal, and even water. But with all this digging into the ground, there is still not much common knowledge about the origins of mining and how methods have evolved throughout history.
Beginnings of Mining
Since pre-historic years, mining stone and ceramics were crucial in order to start improving civilization. Rocks that were naturally harder were high in demand to make axes and other tools that were necessary to build structures. The oldest mine known to man is the “Lion Cave” which dates back to 43,000 years ago by means of radiocarbon dating. Located in Swaziland, this cave contributed hematite and paved the way for mining.
The Romans were major contributors to methods of mining on a large scale. Water in particular was used to remove debris, heavy rocks, and washing ores. This hydraulic mining was used to expose the rock covering the gold. Another method called fire-setting would take over and heat the bedrock while it is soaked in water. This would naturally create cracks and breaks thereby making it easier to remove.
In Europe, mining was predominately to extract copper and iron. While the original method was pit mining, the increased demand for armor and weapons prompted a more efficient technique called blasting. Technology improved and gunpowder was used in place of fire-setting because the process was not only faster but it allowed for better access to more depth.
Why Mining Must Evolve
It is impossible to pinpoint what was contributed by where to the evolution of mining. But most of the knowledge we have on mining methods come from authors like Georg Agricola and Biringuccio. The issue of flooding after hydraulic mining became a serious problem in Europe so there were limited options except to invent pumps as a resolution.
Civilization would not be reality if mining had not evolved. There simply were not enough resources such as iron and other metals to supply all the necessary structures, machinery, and tools needed. This prompted the vital need for new methods that can help miners dig even deeper into once impenetrable areas.
Mining can be extremely dangerous so safety is an issue of concern when deriving new methods. While there is still risk of danger, modern day technology has provided methods that make it safer for miners.
Today’s Mining Technology
From mining with heavy machinery to rarer methods like leaching, today’s technology has made vast improvements since pre-historic times. Whether surface or underground mining, excavation for metals, ores, minerals, and other natural resources are essential for our survival and progress. As long as there are still worthy resources to dig, mining technology will continue to advance.
Besides mining methods, safety regulations to prevent destruction or contamination of the planet have been strictly enforced. Mining companies must comply with stringent procedures to ensure that there will still be resources left for future generations.
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