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close this bookEnvironmental Handbook Volume II: Agriculture, Mining/Energy, Trade/Industry (GTZ, 1995, 736 p.)
close this folderMining and energy
close this folder37. Underground mining
View the document1. Scope
View the document2. Environmental impacts and protective measures
View the document3. Notes on the analysis and evaluation of environmental impacts
View the document4. Interaction with other sectors
View the document5. Summary assessment of environmental relevance
View the document6. References

1. Scope

Mining is defined as the extraction of mineral resources from the earth. Underground mining is the extraction of raw materials below the earth's surface (deep mining) and their conveyance to the surface. Access to the vein or lode is by shafts and tunnels with links to the surface. (The subsequent stages of raw material processing are dealt with in a separate brief: Minerals - Handling and Processing.) The present brief examines only the underground extraction of solid mineral resources.

There are some 70 individual types of useful minerals that occur in minable concentrations either alone or in combination with other minerals, frequently as natural mixtures (aggregates).

Underground mining includes all work involved in the winning of raw materials by people using technical contrivances. Apart from the actual extraction and conveyance processes, the term underground mining also covers development of the deposit and provision of the requisite infrastructure (transportation/handling, storage facilities, surface plant, e.g., administration building, workshops, etc.) and all measures devoted to ensuring the safety of the miners. This includes:







Small-scale mining activities in many countries frequently include a transitional form of extraction referred to as trench mining, or burrowing.

In special cases, the mineral can be made transportable and hauled off from its natural surroundings with no need of exploratory work (brine mining, in-situ leaching and in-situ gasification of coal).

Deep mining creates underground spaces in which people work. Their working conditions with regard to air temperature and humidity, presence of harmful or explosive gases or radiation, as well as moisture, dust and noise, can be specific to the mined mineral and/or the surrounding rock, the depth of the mine, and the type of machinery in use.

The locations of deep mines are dictated by the presence of potentially profitable raw materials. Underground extraction is practiced in all climate zones, in remote areas as well as under large cities, on the ocean floor and in alpine regions. The size, or output, of such mines ranges from less than 1 to more than 15 000 tons a day, and the depth at which extraction takes place ranges from a few meters to more than 4 kilometers.