Mining Tools: A Complete Guide to Mining Industry Equipment
Mining tools are the equipment used in extracting a wide array of minerals from the earth.
Mined minerals are used in almost every consumer product—from cars, to electronics, to jewelry and more. And 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.
Before we begin identifying key mining tools, it’s important to understand the different types of mining for which these tools are used.
Here is a menu to help you navigate this guide:
- Mining Industry Overview
- What Types of Mining Tools Do Miners Carry on Them?
- What Mining Tools Are Used in Surface Mining?
- What Mining Tools Are Used in Underground Mining?
- Other Mining Tools
Mining Industry Overview
Mining falls into two categories: surface mining and underground mining.
The type of minerals and mining techniques that a mining operation is trying to extract will directly inform which tools miners use in their work.
However, there are three steps that are consistent for both surface and underground mining:
- 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 is used to extract minerals that are close to the earth’s surface.
Surface mining methods 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
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.
Underground mining consists of:
- 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.
Salt mine | Source: Szabolcs Molnar from Pixabay
Types Of Mining Tools
Different mining tools are used for different types of minerals and techniques. There are specific mining tools for soft rocks and specific tools for hard rocks, just as there are specific tools for surface mining techniques and specific tools for underground mining techniques.
Soft rock mines—like those made for the extraction of salt, coal, bauxite, and potash—do not require the use of explosives for extraction. These minerals can be mined using only specialized machinery.
Hard rock mines—like those made for the extraction of copper, gold, iron, lead, platinum, silver, uranium, and zinc—require explosives for extraction. In this case, hydraulic drills are used to drill holes where explosives can be inserted and then blasted.
What Types of Tools Do Miners Carry on Them?
To this day, miners still use traditional mining tools like pickaxes, hammers, chisels, and shovels for both surface and underground mining.
In addition to those mining tools, miners have the following personal safety equipment on them at all times:
- 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.
What Mining Tools Are Used In Surface Mining?
Blasthole drills 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 equipment used in 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 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
What Mining Tools Are Used In Underground Mining?
Crane lifts are versatile in underground mining. These mining tools can be used to load explosives and carry other heavy loads and equipment.
Crane lift | Source: Vallee
Continuous miners are 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
Jumbo drill or mining drill
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 extremely compact and maneuverable, designed specifically for underground mines. 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.
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), to transport the ore to a processing location, and then for blending, mixing, and stocking 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