Open pit mining does offer some advantages over traditional deep shaft mining. Pit mining is more cost effective than shaft mining because more ore can be extracted and more quickly. The working conditions are safer for the miners because there is no risk of cave in or toxic gas.
Open pit mining is the preferred method for mining gold, silver, and uranium. This type of mining is also used to dig for coal and building stone.
The cost advantage of open pit mining to investors is a matter of scale. According to the Delta Mine Training Center an open pit mine is cheaper, safer, and mechanically easier to operate.
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Investors in the pit mine profit in two ways. It is cheaper to operate an open pit mine because less manpower and equipment is required. Strip mining, or open pit mining is profitable sooner than a shaft mine because more ore can be extracted from an open pit mine and more quickly.
Open pit mining offers an advantage over shaft mining in that it is mechanically simpler to do. Space is not restricted in open pit mining. Trucks and mining machinery are free to move around as they need to. More machines can move more ore and haul off waste rock more quickly.
Because an open pit mine is open to the air larger machinery can be used to operate the mine. This is a real advantage to mining companies who often use large trucks to carry debris away from the mine. According to Caterpillar Corporation the model 777 off road truck commonly use in open pit mines can carry a payload of 200,000 pounds.
While open pit mining poses some danger to mine workers, there are some safety advantages over shaft mining. Workers in an open pit mine are not subject to death from mine cave in accidents. Open pit miners are not exposed to explosive poison gas dangers as deep shaft mine workers can be.
According to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act mining companies must regularly inspect open pit mine high walls to help ensure worker safety. The mining companies use geologists, engineers, and sophisticated sensing equipment to check pit wall stability. While open pit mining will never be completely safe it is safer than shaft mining is some ways.