The US mining industry is something that has been around for hundreds of years and a major contributor to industry production. From the glowing early years to the tougher times that have come in the 21st century, this industry continues to experience a few downward trends, but brighter times are coming in the future. For one, production numbers for the mines are strong and steel, for example, is in high demand.
The US mining industry has survived downward shifts in industry and even the pandemic by changing and adapting as times evolved. Fact remains, the products produced through mining provide the foundation for nearly all manufacturing. Today, there are nearly 13,000 active mines in the US as of 2019, valuing at $61 billion. Most common commodities produced in by the US mining industry include:
- Metals (iron, copper, steel, uranium)
- Precious metals (gold, silver, platinum)
- Minerals (sulfur, crushed stone, cement, gravels, industrial sand)
We’ll be taking a look at all there is to know about the US Mining Industry, beginning by looking at the past and ahead to the future.
A Brief History of Mining
Mining in the USA is something that can be traced all the way back to colonial times, however the rich history of mining begins in the 1800s. During the 19th century there were many discoveries in the mining industry, and as new minerals were discovered, this industry really began to expand. This is what led to the mining rushes of the 19th century.
While the 19th century leading into the 20th century was one of the most successful periods for the US mining industry, it also brought with it some massive disasters. Over these years, thousands of miners would die at work, with the most notable disaster being the Monongah coal mine disaster.
A lot of these disasters were associated with the processes used during mining at this time. Healthy and safety laws were pretty much non-existent, and employee care was negligible to say the least. This paired with mining practices that were unsafe led to many disasters. But thankfully, the technological changes in mining have made a big difference.
Technological Changes in Mining Through the Years
The 20th and 21st century have been some of the most innovative in human history. This innovation has led to mining being a much safer profession than it once was. These changes along with advances in health and safety regulations and laws has had a huge impact on mining, and it has made it almost unrecognizable from the mining practices of the 19th century.
But, the thing that has had the biggest impact on mining is the technological changes that have occurred in this profession. Now, a lot of the work that is required to get to the materials that are being harvested is completely by heavy machinery. With machines that dig, crush, excavate, and lots more, there is less requirement for miners to put themselves into potentially fatal positions. Instead, they are taught how to handle this machinery.
Here are just a handful of the technological changes that have completely transformed the mining industry:
- Explosive Tools – While explosives have been used in mining for many years, advancements have meant that blasts within mines can be controlled. This greatly reduces the risk of mine collapses and injury to employees.
- Drills – Instead of picks and hammers, drills are now used in mining. Most of the time, these drills can work on their own, and there is no need for employees to even be in the mine when they are operating. Instead, these drills can be controlled from above ground.
- Conveying Equipment – Conveyor belts have always been used in mines, but modern advancements mean that these belts can measure output by weight and material.
What Resources are Most Commonly Mined in the USA?
The US mining indstry is massive, and it is hardly surprising when you take into account the sheer size of the USA. Due to this, there are lots of different things that are mined in the USA.
As you would expect, the most mined commodity in the USA is coal. But some of the other resources that are commonly mined in the USA include crushed rock, cement, gold, construction and industrial sand and gravel, iron ore, copper, and lots more. All of these resources combined have led to the US mining industry being worth an estimated $82.3 billion in 2020. These different mines are located all across the country with different areas specializing in different resources.
The mining industry in the USA is incredibly important. Not only does this industry generate a lot of income for the country, as well as offering employment to many people, but it is also indispensable because of the amount of minerals consumed by the USA. Yes, the USA is one of the largest mineral producers, but it is also one of the largest consumers too. So, if the US mining industry ceased to exist, the US would not only be hit financially, but also from a consumer perspective too.
In its early days, the US mining industry was incredibly successful. But over the years, particularly in recent years, as economic shocks and global crises (such as global warming) have become known, the industry has been knocked. In 2015, the US mining industry was worth an estimated $109.6 billion, but in the years after this the value had dropped. Thankfully, the 2020 valuation of the industry suggests that things are improving, and that there are positive times ahead for this industry.
The Future of the US Mining Industry
You only have to take a look at the rich history of the US mining industry to know that there are big things to come for this industry. There are lots of ways that this industry could change, and it is likely that technological advancements will have an influence on this. But outside of technology, what could change for the industry?
Women have been working in mines since the 1980s and 90s, but gender equality has always been something that is lacking in this industry. Traditionally, female employees would have to wear men’s clothing and would be treated unfairly in comparison to their male counterparts. The mining industry is still a male dominated industry, so perhaps this is something that will change in the future.
Due to their remoteness, most mine operations in the US are heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as diesel, heavy oil fuels, and coal, for on-site generation. In principle, mining could use many clean energy solutions such as energy efficiency, energy recovery, renewable energy, and carbon capture. A combination of clean energy technologies would be required to fully address energy-related challenging facing the mining industry. As increased pressure for reducing environmental impacts continues, new mining technology is examining ways to incorporate renewable resources to help with material extraction and processing.
Use of Contractors
Contractors are also something else that have been used in mining frequently over the past 50 years. But in the future, it is likely that the use of contractors, like AMS a mining servicies company, is something that will increase. Especially in civil mining. With contractors providing such outstanding and safe services, it is easy to see that the use of dependable contractors is something that will increase going into the future.
US Mining Industry – American Mine Services
There is no denying that the US mining industry is important. Even though this industry has been through difficult times in the past few decades, it is clear that things are looking positive moving into the future. American Mine Services seeks to incorporate the latest technologies and practices for viable solutions at mining sites across the nation. This can be anything from improving ground support to creating innovative solutions to mining rehabilitation. All of which serve to reduce the impact of mining on the environment and work to reconcile the effects of mining. Contact us today to learn more about our mining services in the US.