Monday, 19 December 2016

New Book: How Mining Works

I first came across this book at the SME Meeting in Phoenix earlier this year, when the author W. Scott Dunbar was signing copies at the SME Bookstore.
Scott Dunbar (right) at the SME Bookstore, Phoenix
This colourful book, available from SME, consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1 provides an explanation of how mineral deposits are formed and how they are found. Chapter 2 describes mining methods, the systems and machines used to extract ore from the earth. Chapter 3 describes a few of the methods used to process the ore and produce metals. Much of mining refers to the production of metals, but nonmetallic minerals are a huge part of the industry. Chapter 4 discusses the particular examples of coal, diamonds, and gravel (aggregates). In addition to minerals and metals, mining and processing ore produce large amounts of waste products that must be managed, often for an indefinite period. The science and technologies applied to this important part of mining are the topics of Chapter 5. Mining also involves people, the communities in which they live, and the government of the country in which the mine is located. As described in Chapter 6, the related issues are important, interesting, and sometimes challenging. Chapter 7 describes the mechanisms for establishing prices of metals and minerals and discusses the legal definition of ore. Finally, Chapter 8 presents some ideas about mining in the future.
In his Preface, Scott acknowledges that he was encouraged to write this book by Jane Olivier, the books manager at SME and I am grateful to Jane for providing me with a review copy.

The first thing that I noticed on flicking through the book is how beautifully it is illustrated, with a profusion of excellent informative diagrams and photographs. As Scott so rightly says pictures in a book like this are worth far more than a thousand words, and the majority of the images in the book were generously provided by many companies and individuals.
The second thing that is evident is that this is not intended as a reference book for the serious mining professional. It is very basic, and that is its beauty as it will be of great value to anyone working in the industry who seeks a wider view of what makes mining work. So, personally, I did not learn a great deal from Chapter 3 on Mineral Processing and Refining, my own specialist area, but I did from the other seven chapters, which explained all other aspects of the industry, such as mining methods, in a very clear and simple manner.
This book should be high on the essential reading list for first year undergraduates on degree courses in geology, mining, mineral processing or any other areas of the minerals industry. I would also like to see it on the library bookshelves at schools, to hopefully enthuse pre-University students in this essential industry, although it is a shame that Scott does not put more emphasis on just how important the mining industry is, all other industries being dependent on it for a continuous supply of metals and minerals.
In summary Scott Dunbar must be congratulated on producing a much-needed book which I hope will achieve all the success that it deserves.

Twitter @barrywills

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