Our topic today is mining and smelting.


As always, let’s look first at some key vocabulary.


Prospecting: Prospecting is often the very first stage in the search for mineral deposits.

Drill sampling: A small hole is pierced into the ground and a sample of rock is brought to the surface.

Ore: a mineral that has a high concentration of a certain element, typically a metal. By the way, an ore is always a mineral, but a mineral is not always an ore.

Surface mining: This is a broad category of mining in which soil and rock lying on top of the mineral deposit are removed.

Sub-surface mining: consists of digging tunnels or shafts into the earth to reach buried ore deposits.

Ore milling: a process to crush rock and separate ore from waste material.

Smelting: A process that uses heat or chemicals to separate the metal from the ore.


Mines come in many different shapes and sizes, and I am no expert, but for the sake of this podcast lesson, let’s break them up into two main categories: surface mining and sub-surface mining. With surface mining, the miners dig and remove the soil on rock that sits on top of the mineral deposits. This can leave massive holes in the ground. With sub-surface mines, on the other hand, the mineral is reached through a system of tunnels and shafts. Probably for most of you, this is what you imagine when you think about mining. Men –– and it is almost always men –– in hard hats going down deep into the earth to access the minerals.  When mines are operated without proper safety standards, this can still be a very dangerous job.

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