Mining Tools in 2022—A Guide to Mining Equipment and Mining Machines
Mining tools is a general phrase that refers to all the mining equipment and mining machines used to extract minerals from the earth.
Mined minerals appear in almost every consumer product—from cars, to electronics, to jewelry and more. Minerals like uranium and coal are major energy sources that account for 50% of the US’s energy supply.
All of these resources are obtained through the use of various types of mining tools and mining equipment.
Before we begin identifying key mining tools and mining machines, it’s important to understand the different types of mining methods for which these tools are used.
Toward that end, the first section of this guide covers the different mining techniques and methods. After we provide that context for the different ways mining is done we'll dive into the specific tools used for each type of mining.
Want to jump around? Use this menu to learn more about each type of mining equipment:
- Types of Mining Methods
- Mining Tools and Equipment
- Miner Tools
- Mining PPE
- Surface Mining Equipment
- Underground Mining Equipment
- Other Mining Tools
Types of Mining Methods
Mining falls into two categories: surface mining and underground mining.
The type of minerals that a mining operation is trying to extract and the mining techniques they're using to extract those minerals directly informs the types of tools that miners use in their work.
That being said, a basic method is always followed for both surface and underground mining. That method is:
- Extraction. Extraction consists of digging, drilling, or blasting into the earth to extract minerals.
- Material handling. Material handling consists of sorting through materials, sending target minerals to a processing site, and sending irrelevant materials to a waste area.
- Material processing. Material processing is where minerals go to be smelted, crushed, grinded, or refined, converting the minerals into finished products for distribution.
Surface Mining Methods
Surface mining is a mining method used to extract minerals that are close to the earth’s surface.
Mining methods for surface mining include:
- Strip mining. Strip mining removes thin layers of surface material in order to reach the mineral. The layer above the mineral is called overburden, and it typically consists of soil and rocks. This surface mining technique is commonly used to extract coal that is laying near the surface, and it is a method that is used to prepare the area for open-pit mining.
- Open pit mining. Open-pit mining is a technique that involves drilling into the earth’s surface to set explosives. These explosions create a large pit for miners to access underlying rocks. This surface mining technique can be used to extract silver.
- Quarrying. Quarrying is a process in which miners cut blocks of hard stone. Miners will also extract by-products of these hard stones, like sand, gravel, or small stones. Quarrying is made accessible by open-pit mining. This surface mining technique is typically used to extract granite, marble, and other hard stones.
- In-situ leach (ISL) mining. In-situ mining is primarily used for extracting uranium, which is used for nuclear power. This surface mining technique consists of dissolving the mineral in place without moving rock from the surface layers.
- Placer mining. Placer mining is used to extract gold from sand or gravel by using pans and water. Gold, which has a higher density than sand and gravel, will sink faster, making it easier to collect.
Open-pit mine | Source: Adam Rhodes on Unsplash
Underground Mining Methods
There are several minerals that cannot be extracted by surface mining techniques.
In this case, underground mining will be used. Because of the confined nature of underground mining, the extraction process is different.
Mining methods for underground mining include:
- Blast mining. Blast mining, just as it sounds, utilizes explosives to remove hard rock layers, loosen rocks, and open up underground mining areas.
- Room and pillar mining. Room and pillar mining consists of the construction of rectangular pillars to support the weight of the ceiling while miners clear out the minerals from around the pillars. This technique can be done by specialized underground mining equipment.
- Retreat mining. Retreat mining is the process of removing the pillars from room and pillar mining. This underground mining technique strategically removes the pillars, extracting the remaining mineral from the mine. As the pillars are removed, the mine collapses onto itself. This is an incredibly dangerous underground mining technique. A lot of careful planning goes into the pillar removal process to prevent injury and death.
- Block caving. Block caving is a large-scale mining method that requires a longer development stage than any other underground mining method. This method blasts a gap at the bottom of the rock mass which causes the rock above to break up and collapse to fill the void while the surface of the mie caves inwards.
- Cut and fill mining. Is a small-scale mining method that involves cutting horizontal slices in the orebody. Once the level is excavated, the level is backfilled and excavation moves up to the next level.
- Drift and fill mining. Drift and fill mining is used when an orebody is wider than the drift itself. Drifts will be mined adjacent to one another, backfilling one before excavating another drift.
- Longwall mining. Longwall mining is commonly used in coal mines and involves the use of a shearer set on a kilometer long track to grind coal from the mine face.
- Shrinkage stope mining. Shrinkage stope mining is a highly productive mining method that is used to mine steep, uniform orebodies. Primary and secondary stopes are blasted throughout the orebody, with the primary stope being excavated and backfilled before extracting ore from the secondary stope.
- Sublevel caving. Sublevel caving is used on orebodies with a steep dip. Ore is extracted from the footwall side to prevent fracturing. The orebody is blasted from the top down while the host rock on the hanging wall caves.
[For a deep dive into the mining industry, see our resource, Mining Industry: A Complete Guide]
Salt mine | Source: Szabolcs Molnar from Pixabay
Mining Equipment for Soft Rock Mines Vs. Hard Rock Mines
Different mining tools are used for different types of minerals and mining techniques.
There are specific mining tools for soft rocks and specific tools for hard rocks, just as there are specific mining machines for surface mining techniques and specific tools for underground mining techniques.
The basic difference between soft rock mining and hard rock mining is that hard rock mining requires the use of explosive, and soft rock mining does not.
Soft Rock Mines
- Do not require explosives for extraction.
- Examples of soft rock minerals include salt, coal, bauxite, and potash.
- All of these minerals can be mined using only specialized mining machinery.
Hard Rock Mines
- Require explosives for extraction.
- Examples of hard rock minerals include copper, gold, iron, lead, platinum, silver, uranium, and zinc.
- In hard rock mines, hydraulic drills are used to drill holes where explosives can be inserted and then blasted.
Mining Tools and Equipment
There are a lot of different types of tools used in mining.
Instead of naming all these tools in one giant list, we've organized this guide into the different types of mining methods and the tools used for each one.
But before we dive into those specific categories, we wanted to share a list of mining tools and equipment by category so you can have a general understanding of what each category contains.
Here's a general list of mining tools and equipment:
- Miner tools—tools that miners carry on them, like pickaxe and chisels.
- Mining PPE—equipment that miners use to stay safe while working.
- Surface mining equipment—all the tools and mining machines used for surface mining.
- Underground mining equipment—all the tools and mining machines used for underground mining.
Now that we've covered things at a high level, let's dive into each specific category.
To this day, miners still use traditional mining tools, including:
- Shovels (for both surface and underground mining).
In addition to traditional mining tools, miners also carry mining PPE on them at all times, including things like:
- Air respirator systems. For breathing clean air.
- Cap lights. Lights that are attached on top of protective headwear.
- Detection solutions. For locating miners.
- Fall protection. An array of safety tools to protect miners from falling.
- Hearing protection. For working in loud conditions.
- Miner’s pouch. A miner’s belt that provides lumbar support and carries cap light battery packs, tools, and a self rescuer.
- Protective communications. Wireless two way communications, plus a two way phone for emergency situations.
- Protective eyewear. To protect the eyes.
- Protective headwear. To help protect the head from falling debris, etc.
- Reflective clothing. A safety measure so miners can easily be seen.
- Self-rescuers. A personal emergency respiratory protection device against carbon monoxide and other harmful noxious gases.
Surface Mining Equipment
Here are all the types of mining tools used in surface mining:
- Blasthole drills
- Bucket-wheel excavators
- Dragline excavators
- Highwall miners
- Mining trucks
- Wheel tractor scrapers
Blasthole drills are mining machines that drill holes into the earth’s surface for placing explosives.
Blasthole drill | Source: Cat Models
Bucket-wheel excavators are used in open-pit mining. These mining tools continuously dig, transport, and load materials, excavating up to 240,000 cubic tons of minerals per day.
Bucket wheel excavator | Source: Thyssenkrupp
Dozers are earth-movers that drag dirt from one area to another.
Dozer | Source: Cat
Dragline excavators are used in strip mining to remove overburden. The massive bucket system is attached to large booms and dragged across the surface of the earth for excavation. This is one of the largest pieces of land mining equipment used in mining, or any industry.
Dragline excavator | Source: Liebherr
Graders are used to create viable roads for mining trucks so they can transport minerals out of the mine and keep them profitable.
Grader | Source: Cat
Highwall miners are mining machines that extract coal from exposed seams. The highwall miners rotate up and down a wall, grinding mineral deposits out of the walls. These mining tools are also used for trench mining.
Highwall miner | Source: Cat
Mining trucks are essentially large dump trucks used for mining. New technology has developed fully autonomous mining trucks that use both LiDAR and radar to freely move around a mining site.
Mining truck | Source: Cat
Shovels are used for digging and to extract broken rocks and minerals.
Shovel | Source: Cat
Wheel tractor scrapers
Wheel tractor scrapers are another earth-mover that operates similarly to a carpenter's plane. Unlike dozers, scrapers have the capability to load and carry materials.
Wheel tractor scraper | Source: Cat
Underground Mining Equipment
Here are all the types of mining tools used in underground mining:
- Crane lifts
- Continuous miners
- Jumbo drills
- Loaders and haulers
- Longwall mining machines
- Personnel vehicles
- Refuge chambers
- Rock dusters
- Roof bolters
- Shotcrete machines
- Shuttle cars
- Underground rails
- Ventilation systems
Crane lifts are versatile in underground mining. These mining machines can be used to load explosives and carry other heavy loads and mining equipment.
Crane lift | Source: Vallee
Continuous miners are a type of ming equipment used in room and pillar mining, and have a large rotating drum with carbide teeth to scrape coal from seams. These mining tools can mine up to five tons of coal a minute and account for approximately 45% of underground coal production. They also have conveyor belts that transport coal, making this an automated process that is controlled remotely.
Continuous miner | Source: Komatsu
Underground mining drones, like Flyability's Elios 3, are used for visual inspections in stopes, ore passes, ventilation shafts, conveyor belts, and other areas of an underground mine. This technology has allowed inspections to be conducted in areas that are unsafe for humans to enter—an invaluable tool in such hazardous conditions.
Elios 3 drone | Source: Flyability
Jumbo drills (Also called mining drills)
Jumbo drills or mining drills are used to drill holes for explosives or to create mine shafts for miners to enter.
Jumbo drill | Source: Sandvik
Loaders and haulers
Loaders and haulers are an extremely compact and maneuverable type of equipment used in underground mining, which is designed specifically for underground work. Just like their names suggest, these mining tools load and haul away minerals.
Loaders and haulers | Source: Sandvik
Longwall mining machines
Longwall mining machines are the most common machines used in underground coal mining. These mining tools are used to build underground galleries and tunnels by leveraging the machine’s shearing capabilities.
Longwall mining machines | Source: Victaulic
Personnel vehicles transport miners and their supplies down a shaft to the underground mine.
Personnel vehicles | Source: Rokion
Refuge chambers are stand-alone safety chambers for miners that are equipped with oxygen, food, water, and sanitary necessities in case of an emergency. These chambers can safely hold miners for 96 hours to eight days.
Refuge chamber | Source: Strata Worldwide
Rock dusters are essential to preventing mining shafts from combusting. Dusters apply inert dust, or dust with a small amount of combustible materials, to counter the coal dust. This process is especially important when planned explosions are taking place.
A miner rock dusting | Source: Wikiwand
Roof bolters secure the ceiling of the mine with safety jacks to help prevent cave-ins.
Roof bolter | Source: Advance Mining Solutions
Scoops are used in room and pillar mining to load minerals onto trucks in an underground mine.
Scoops | Source: Simmons Equipment Company
Shotcrete machines spray concrete along mine tunnel walls and ceilings to reinforce the structural integrity of a mine shaft or tunnel.
Shotcrete machines | Source: Resource Erectors
Shuttle cars transport minerals to conveyor belts in room and pillar mining. These tools travel to the most remote sections of the mine.
Shuttle car | Source: Komatsu
Underground rails haul miners and materials in and out of a mine. It can sometimes take an hour or more for miners to arrive in the work zone.
Underground rails | Source: Mining Weekly
Ventilations systems are crucial for workers to be present in the mines due to the noxious nature of coal and, specifically, coal dust. These systems are used to provide clean air for workers and regulate temperatures underground.
Ventilation system | Source: Groff Engineering
It’s important to note that underground mining tools that operate in an enclosed environment are no-emission machines. They are specially built to still have the power to move tons of rocks at a time in these harsh conditions.
Other Mining Tools
There are a number of other mining tools that are used in both surface and underground mining. Surface level processing mines are used in both types of mining too, and include an array of transport and processing tools.
List of Other Mining Tools
- Conveyor belts
- Mixers and agitators
Hoppers supply conveyor belts with a specified amount of ore and waste at specified rates.
Hopper | Source: Vale Industries
A chute uses gravity to transport materials from one process to another process. Chutes can feed crushers, feeders, stackers, and mills.
Chute | Source: Variant Mining
Conveyor belts are used at the root of mining activity (known as the mine face), first to transport the ore to a processing location, and then also to blend, mix, and stock the minerals.
Conveyor Belt | Source: 123rf
Stackers pile bulk materials onto a stockpile and can also carry oversized material to a tailings pile.
Reclaimers are used to collect and transfer materials between stockpiles. These are set on rails.
Stacker and reclaimer | Source: 123rf
Feeders typically are used to transfer rough materials into a crusher. They can also be used to feed material from a crusher to a hopper, used to unload a rail cart, or feed materials into a storage bin.
Apron feeder | Source: TAKRAF
Crushers break down large rocks into small rocks, gravel, sand, and rock dust. Common types of crushers include:
- Cone crusher
- Crusher bucket
- Gyratory crusher
- Impact crusher
- Jaw crusher
- Mineral sizers
Crusher | Source: 123rf
SAG, ball, and grinder mills are used in on-site processing plants to extract the desired product from the ore by grinding the ore into smaller materials.
Ball mill | Source: 123rf
Screens sort, classify, dewater, scalp, and deslime materials. Common types of screens include:
- Centrifuge baskets
- Cross-flow sieves
- Dewatering screens
- Flat panel screens
- Mining trommel screens
- Sieve bends/DSM screens
- Vibrator screens
Screen | Source: Mining FTM
Roasters are used as in on-site processing. Roasters heat a sulfide ore in air to break it down to a more refined state.
Roaster | Source: Resolute Mining
Mixers and Agitators
Mixers and agitators are used in chemical processing of ore through the process of extractive metallurgy, which separate metals from mineral deposits.
Mixer | Source: Mixtec
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