Extending the life of a mine

Posted on November 04, 2013 by Minerals Make Life

On many occasions, we’ve told you about the National Mining Association’s members’ commitment to returning the land on which they operate to the community once a project is complete. But how do we know when a mine is “mined out?”

Jonathan DuHamel, blogger for WryHeat and a retired economic geologist, wrote last week about the life of a mine, explaining how a project can extend far past the original scope, operating for decades longer than expected.

“The ability to provide raw materials over such a long time span is possible because different parts of the deposit are mined in response to changing economy and technology,” DuHamel said.

The post goes on to tell the stories of the copper mines in the Southwestern United States—home to huge minerals deposits—that have been mined for more than a century.

DuHamel also reminds us of the true deterrent for many minerals mining projects in the United States: inefficient government policies.

“Mining is a risky business which requires huge up-front expenditures. It ultimately depends on economics…” Duhamel said. “Other costs, especially that of ever-changing government regulation in the form of royalty schemes or environmental laws, make mining risky indeed and may actually waste a portion of the natural resource by drastically decreasing the amount of mineralization that can be called ore.”

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