What Is Open-Pit Mining?

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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2014
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Just like the name suggests, open-pit mining is a type of mining operation that involves the digging of an open pit as a means of gaining access to a desired material. This is a type of surface mining that involves the extraction of minerals and other materials that are conveniently located in close proximity to the surface of the mining site. It differs from other types of mining processes that may require the digging of underground tunnels a long distance from the surface in order to reach the material. One of the advantages of the open-pit mining system is the fact that it is not as capital or labor intensive as the underground method of mineral or precious metal and stone extraction.


The process of open-pit mining is precipitated by the analysis of the area in order to determine the presence of the desired material that may be coal or ore. If it is determined that the desired materials are present in the area, the next step would be to calculate the stripping ratio of the mining process, meaning that even though ore, coal or another desired material may be present, the profitability of mining it has to be ascertained. This may be done by calculating how much of the surface material obstructing the mineral of choice has to be moved in order to reach the desired material. Generally, the less effort it takes to extract whatever material is in the sites, the more the mining company stands to gain in terms of profit as a consequence of the fact that the material and labor investments will be reduced. The stripping ratio in open-pit mining is important because the profitability of that particular mining venture hinges on the ability of the company to gain more from the extraction process than what it expends in order to obtain access to the material.

Usually, the open pit-mining system is one that is based on simplicity due to the fact that it merely requires the shifting of whatever material is covering the deposit. This process may be expedited if the top material is made up of easily maneuverable material, such as coarse sand, as opposed to rocks that may require more specialized equipment to break down and move them from the site. After a while, the profitability of such mines will decrease since the materials that are closest to the surface will have been mined.


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