Gold is a precious metal that is mined from a variety of sources. Gold has many unique properties that make it suitable for a wide range of applications. It conducts electricity, it does not tarnish, it is very pliable meaning that it can be worked into different shapes and thicknesses and it beautiful to look at. It is most commonly seen in jewelry, but is also used in computer processors, to make money, in electronic goods, in dentistry, in the medical field, in the making of glass and in architecture. So how is such a valuable and versatile metal mined? Read on to find out.
How is Gold Mined?
The oldest and most well known method of gold mining is panning. Panning is when wide, shallow pans are filled with sand and gravel from a stream bed. This pan is placed in the water and shaken to separate the rock and sand from the gold. As the gold is much denser than rock or sand it sinks to the bottom of the pan. This is a method that is most commonly used as a tourist attraction and large scale mining companies do not pan rivers and streams in search of gold.
This is similar to panning in that the gravel and sand from a stream or river are passed through a sluicing box in search of the gold. Sluicing also uses the gold’s natural density to separate it from the lighter gravel and sand. Large amounts of gold bearing materials is dug up and placed in a heap. The water is directed through the material and past the sluicing box. The sluicing box has divots in it that create dead spots in the water flow where the gold can collect. Again this method is generally used by small operations and individuals to collect gold.
Hard Rock Mining
Hard rock mining is the most common type of gold mining that large corporations do. Hard rock mining is when the gold is encased in rock underground not found in the sediment of streams and rivers. There are two types of hard rock mining, open-pit mining and underground gold mining. Open-pit gold mining is where a large trench like opening is dug into the earth’s surface. The gold ore is extracted from the surrounding rock and taken to a processing plant where the gold is chemically separated from the other rock. Underground gold mines are just that, underground. The gold is extracted from the rock and transported out via tunnels and shafts to the surface. These mines can be some 3900 miles deep and have to be air conditioned to allow people to safely work in them.