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The Future of Mineral Supplies
A number of methods that may be used to extend the life span of existing reserves:
Some sites that have large mineral deposits have not been thoroughly explored often in
areas where it would be expensive to exploit or are protected so mining is banned.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is protected from mineral exploitation.
Commercial mineral exploitation is banned in Antarctica by Antarctic Treaty.
The right too exploit deposits such as manganese nodules in deep ocean floor in international
waters has not been fully established so few companies willing to invest expensive new
technologies to exploit them.
Better exploratory techniques
Collecting information about the mineral deposit without actually being in contact with it.
Satellite and aerial surveys allow large areas to be surveyed quickly to provide info.
Colour and infrared emission may also indicate the possible mineral content of surface rocks.
The strength of gravity provides information on the density of the rocks.
Igneous denser than sedimentary.
The strength of magnetism helps to detect magnetic rocks such as iron ores.
Echoes of provide information on depth, angle density and thickness of rock strata.
A grid of core samples allows data to be collected on the exact extent of the exploitable
deposit as well as its depth purity and chemical form.
Mechanised mining techniques
Large excavators can extract material more rapidly and therefore cost effectively.
Exploitation of low grade ores
Extracting low grad ores by traditional methods expensive. Alternative methods have been
The copper in lechate water from spoil heaps can be concentrated by evaporation then
spate by electrolysis.
The copper from low grade copper sulphide spoil heaps may be extracted using Thiobacillus
They oxidise the sulphur and produce an acidic solution that leaches out the copper. This can
be collected and purified.
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The use of waste mineral materials helps to reduce the demand on the reserves that are still
in the ground.
More than one material may be suitable to do a particular job.
If a more abundant material can be used then the less abundant material can be reserved for
uses where no other material could be used.…read more