Principal ways of protecting mineral deposits
PRINCIPAL WAYS OF PROTECTING MINERAL DEPOSITS
Mineral resources should be protected primarily from non-productive use which may be due to negligence or to shortcomings in the mining process itself. For example, much coal is lost in underground fires, large amounts of gas are lost when it is burned at the oil fields, and so on.
Continuous exploration, the economical and total use of mineral resources, and the replacement of mineral raw materials in short demand by other resources are carried out with the aim of rational use of mineral resources. The repeated use of scrap-metal is very important to save mineral raw materials. In addition, measures must be envisaged to prevent and eliminate the harmful impact of mining operations on the environment.
The economical and comprehensive use of mineral raw materials is aimed at exploiting the existing (already developed) mineral deposits in such a way as to make them last longer. In nature, ores do not contain only iron or only copper, zinc, or lead. The overwhelming majority of ores are complex with one main component and a number of additional ones. For example, in addition to their main element, iron ores often contain titanium, vanadium, cobalt, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and sulfur; polymetallic ores contain tin, copper, nickel, cobalt, tungsten, molybdenum, gold, silver, and a whole range of rare metals (in different amounts); oil drilling by-products include gas, sulfur, iodine, bromine, and boron; gas deposits also yield condensates, helium, sulfur, and nitrogen; coal has pyrite, sulfur, germanium, aluminum oxide, and others.
The main shortcoming in mineral resource exploitation is incomplete or non-comprehensive extraction of useful products from the deposit. Mining enterprises sometimes extract only the main mineral and only from the richest layers. Adjacent poorer layers are not exploited but left in the ground or extracted and dumped. By-products requiring additional separation processes are also dumped.
This method of mining mineral raw materials is now outdated; it is being discarded, and low quality ores and deposits are being exploited in difficult geological conditions.
Certain success has been achieved in comprehensive use of mineral raw materials in the USSR. Non-ferrous metallurgical plants make as by-products nearly all the silver, bismuth and platinum, about 30 per cent of the sulfur, and up to 10 per cent of the zinc, lead and copper. Indium, gallium, selenium, tellurium, cobalt, and other valuable elements are extracted from polymetallic ores. It should be noted that fuller use of mineral raw materials raises efficiency of production. Profits at the Norilsk Ore Mining Combine rose by 200 per cent between 1966 and 1970 due to deeper extraction of nickel, copper, and cobalt, and the number of elements obained increased. Hundreds of millions of roubles worth of by-products 1 are put out by the Ust-Kamenogorsk lead and zinc and Balkhash ore mining combines which make comprehensive use of raw materials.
The need for economical and comprehensive use of mineral resources also applies to fossil fuels.
Coal is used not only as a source of energy but also in metallurgy (coke) and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Coal when processed yields about 300 kinds of products: asphalt, household gas, engine lubricant, carbolic acid, xylene, naphthalene and others. In the USSR, underground gasification of coal in the basin in the vicinity of Moscow and in the Angren deposit (Uzbekistan) yields gas costing almost the same as coal when it is mined underground.