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(a) MINING OPERATIONS The principal difference between hard-rock mining companies and companies involved in oil- and gas-producing activities, previously discussed in this chapter, relates
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to the nature, timing, and extent of expenditures incurred for exploration, development, production, and processing of minerals Generally in the mining industry, a period of as long as several years elapses between the time exploration costs are incurred to discover a commercially viable body of ore and the expenditure of development costs, which are usually substantial, to complete the project Therefore, the economic bene ts derived from a project are long term and subject to the uncertainties inherent in the passage of time In contrast, the costs related to exploring for deposits of oil and gas are expended generally over a relatively short time Major exceptions would be offshore and foreign petroleum exploration and development Like petroleum exploration and production, the mining industry is capital intensive Substantial investments in property, plant, and equipment are required; usually they represent more than 50 percent of a mining company s total assets The signi cant capital investments of mining companies and the related risks inherent in any long-term major project may affect the recoverability of capitalized costs The operational stages in mining companies vary somewhat depending on the type of mineral, because of differences in geological, chemical, and economic factors The basic operations common to mining companies are exploration, development, mining, milling, smelting, and re ning Exploration is the search for natural accumulations of minerals with economic value Exploration for minerals is a specialized activity involving the use of complex geophysical and geochemical equipment and procedures There is an element of nancial risk in every decision to pursue exploration, and explorers generally seek to minimize the costs and increase the probability of success As a result, before any eldwork begins, extensive studies are made concerning which types of minerals are to be sought and where they are most likely to occur Market studies and forecasts, studies of geological maps and reports, and logistical evaluations are performed to provide information for use in determining the economic feasibility of a potential project Exploration can be divided into two phases, prospecting and geophysical analysis Prospecting is the search for geological information over a broad area It embraces such activities as geological mapping, analysis of rock types and structures, searches for direct manifestations of mineralization, taking samples of minerals found, and aeromagnetic surveys Geophysical analysis is conducted in speci c areas of interest localized during the prospecting phase Rock and soil samples are examined, and the earth s crust is monitored directly for magnetic, gravitational, sonic, radioactive, and electrical data Based on the analysis, targets for trenching, test pits, and exploratory drilling are identi ed Drilling is particularly useful in evaluating the shape and character of a deposit Analysis of samples is necessary to determine the grade of the deposit Once the grade and quantity of the deposit have been estimated, the mining company must decide whether developing the deposit is technically feasible and commercially viable The value of a mineral deposit is determined by the intrinsic value of the minerals present and by the nature and location of their occurrence In addition to the grade and quality of the ore, such factors as the physical accessibility of the deposit, the estimated costs of production, and the value of joint products and by-products are key elements in the decision to develop a deposit for commercial exploitation The development stage of production involves planning and preparing for commercial operation Development of surface mines is relatively straightforward For open-pit mines, which are surface mines, the principal procedure is to remove suf cient overburden to expose the ore For strip mines, an initial cut is made to expose the mineral to be mined For underground mines, data resulting from exploratory drilling is evaluated as a basis for planning the shafts and tunnels that will provide access to the mineral deposit Substantial capital investment in mineral rights, machinery and equipment, and related facilities generally is required in the development stage Mining breaks up the rock and ore to the extent necessary for loading and removal to the processing location A variety of mining techniques exists to accomplish this The drilling and blasting technique is utilized frequently; an alternative is the continuous mining method, in which
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