How is Iron Ore Mined

Iron is one of the most abundantly found elements in the earth’s crust, but how is iron ore mined to produce iron that is used to make many useful objects for the mankind. Iron is an element that is not found in Free State, but rather in the form of its ores or rocks. The most commonly found ores of iron are Hematite and Magnetite. These are oxides of iron that are extracted from beneath the surface of the earth’s crust and sent to blast furnaces to make pig iron. This iron is then used to manufacture steel. ‘How is iron ore mined’ is a question asked by many people who are interested in knowing about the origins of iron.

Iron Ore mining facts

Iron production was a closely guarded secret in ancient times

Mankind has known about the existence of iron in its ores for thousands of years. In ancient times, iron ore was heated inside an oven with wood so that it melted and left behind slag that contained iron. This slag was repeatedly hammered and heated to extract iron. This iron could be given different shapes to make weapons and tools. However, before the rock containing iron can be smelted in a blast furnace, it has to be extracted or mined from inside the surface of the earth. Iron ore mining is a very complex procedure though it has been perfected over the last few centuries to make it more efficient and less labor intensive by the use of giant earth moving machines.

How is Iron Ore Mined

Open pit mining is used for the production of iron ore

Iron ore can be mined from all places in the world but to be commercially viable, the percentage of iron in this iron ore needs to be at least 20%. This is because lower iron content in the ore will render all the money and effort exerted in mining the ore from under the surface of the earth a big waste. This is why minerals near the surface of the earth and containing as a high percentage of iron are mined for the production of iron. Most of the iron ore produced in the world is extracted from the earth’s crust through opencast mining. This involves removing the overburden by making use of explosives to expose the bedrock containing iron ore. Mining of iron ore can be manual or it can be mechanized depending upon the size of the mine and the reserves of iron ore to be extracted. Drilling is carried out with the help of giant drill blasters and then explosives are placed inside the holes to remove the overburden. These explosives are usually gunpowder and gelatin cartridges. The iron ore that is blasted is stacked and loaded upon large dumpers to be moved to the blast furnaces for smelting process.

Benches are made for the process of iron ore mining

Mechanized mining involves creation of benches that are used for the purpose of drilling, blasting, and finally the transportation of the iron ore to the crushing plant. The length and height of these benches are dependent upon various factors such as hardness and compactness of the iron ore deposit, variations in the grade of the ore, output required, capacity of the machinery deployed, and so on.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Iron ore mine by Bäras (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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