Why We Need Mining
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Why We Need Mining. Why does the world need mining? Not only does it play a vital role in the economies of many developing countries, it also generates metals and minerals that are components of everyday life. Explore this slideshow to see why the world depends on mining and which countries produce the most.
How Much Does The World Mine Each Year? According to the World Mining Congress, collectively, the world mined 16.9 billion metric tons of minerals in 2016. This figure includes mineral fuels, precious metals, industrial minerals, non-ferrous metals and iron and ferro-alloys. In 2016 the top 40 mining companies, which represent the vast majority of the global industry, reported almost $500 billion in revenue.
Who Mines the Most? Mining takes place all over the world. There are 41 countries producing aluminum and 55 countries mining for copper. As you can see in the map, China is a top miner. In fact, China is the world’s largest producer of 28 different mineral raw materials, including rare earth minerals.
The Global Economy Depends on Mining. Mineral production accounts for a significant percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) for many countries such as Ghana, Papa New Guinea and Chile. The economies of many developing nations rely on mining, as 60 percent of all global mine production comes from these countries. For example, mineral production accounts for over 80 percent of the exports of Zambia and Botswana.
Everyday Items Contain Numerous Minerals and Metals. Just how dependent are we on mined materials? Take these everyday items for example. A typical cell phone is composed of 75 different elements, which is almost three quarters of the periodic table. Computers contain over 66 minerals such as silver, aluminum, copper and gold – all of which are mined. The average American car contains 50 pounds of copper alone!
Gold Mining: Although the world is discovering fewer new gold deposits each year, gold production has been rising steadily for the past decade. Gold is growing in demand and has many uses – from jewelry and technology to dentistry and aerospace – due to its unique properties of not tarnishing, conducting electricity and being highly malleable. In 2013 the gold mining industry contributed over $83 billion to the global economy and employed more than one million people around the world, according to the World Gold Council.
Coal Mining: Although renewable sources of energy are gaining popularity, coal still dominates as one of the top sources of power around the world. Top coal-producing countries include China, India, the United States and Australia. According to the World Coal Association, much of global coal production is used in the country in which it is produced and only around 15 percent of hard coal production is destined for the international coal market.
Copper Mining: One metal on the rise is copper, which is used widely from electric wiring to industrial machinery. Demand has surged faster than production has been able to keep up, largely due to the growing electric vehicle market. On average, small cars contain close to 50 pounds of the red metal, with electric vehicles requiring three to four times as much. Most of the world’s copper is mined in South America with Chile as the top producer mining almost 5,500 tonnes in 2016.
How Has Mining Changed Over the Years? Over the years mining has become much more efficient and safer due to technological advancements. In recent years mines have had to cut costs, which breeds innovation. New technologies allow for more tasks to be automated or remotely controlled, reducing the reliance on human workers to venture deep into underground deposits. Mines have also reduced their dependence on fossil fuels to power machinery.
The Future of Mining. Although some mining industries are struggling to discover new deposits, such as gold, some are just picking up steam. With a growing global population comes greater demand for cars, electronics, power, infrastructure and more. All of which require the raw materials, mineral and metals mined globally. An increase in metal recycling programs can help ensure that there are enough materials available to meet growing demand.
Sources: U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey, World Gold Council, World Mining Congress.