What Do Silver Miners Do?

Gregory Hanson

Silver miners work to extract silver ore from the earth and may also be involved in the transportation and processing of that ore. These miners may work in large open mines that are located on the surface or they may work in mine shafts deep below ground. Modern silver mining involves the use of explosives and heavy equipment. Miners may also be responsible for using a variety of physical and chemical processes to extract pure silver from silver ore.

Shallow silver deposits can removed through strip mining.
Shallow silver deposits can removed through strip mining.

In a few very rare cases, precious metals may be found in such concentrations that they can be directly extracted from the earth in pure, or nearly pure, form. The vast majority of such mineral deposits were exhausted centuries ago, however. Modern silver miners typically work to extract ore that contains a significant concentration of silver mixed with many impurities and other substances. This silver ore is mined in large quantities and then processed to separate the metallic silver.

Miners must be physically fit to endure labor requirements.
Miners must be physically fit to endure labor requirements.

Shallow deposits of silver may be strip-mined, a process that involves the removal of a layer of topsoil from an ore deposit located beneath the surface. Heavy earth-moving equipment is used to excavate ore deposits, and explosives may be needed to break up the earth or the ore deposits, depending on the specific geology of a given mine site. Silver miners working a strip mine need to be comfortable with either the use of heavy equipment or explosives and sometimes with both.

Pit mines may be used to excavate larger areas of silver ore. These mines require the use of explosives to blast and pulverize large amounts of rock. This type of mining can expose ore deposits that are located deeper beneath the surface and in rockier terrain.

Most silver miners work in surface mines because it is very expensive to extract ore from deep underground, and most ores are not concentrated enough to make this process worthwhile. Very rich silver deposits are worth mining even if located deep underground. Silver miners working in these mines use blasting and tunneling equipment to follow and excavate ore deposits. They also work to ensure the structural stability of mine tunnels and shafts and may need to deal with flooding or ventilation issues as well.

In some cases, silver miners may be responsible for the transport or processing of the silver ore. Large earth-moving machines often haul the freshly-extracted ore a fairly short distance to a refining facility. Once it arrives at a smelter, the ore is processed and the silver extracted. Miners may, at this point, also be required to dispose of the waste products produced by mining.

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