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The subject of mineral extraction involves a number of highly technical and economically sensitive issues ranging from overburden and waste removal and disposal, through blast design and methods of loading and transporting ore to selection and scheduling of equipment and environmental protection. Many of these issues are more usually associated with the engineering of surface mines for coal and metals and, as such, are the subject of detailed studies and publications (IMM 1983; Hartman 1987; Kennedy 1990; Shaw & Pavlovic 1991).

In the UK, the term ‘mine’ is defined by law (Mines and Quarries Act 1954) as any mineral extraction operation that takes place underground. Surface extraction is ‘quarrying’ although metalliferous surface mines are often referred to as ‘open-pits’ and surface coal mines as ‘open-cast’. At the present time, the lower cost of surface mining dictates that almost all aggregates are produced by quarrying. The methods and equipment employed in quarrying rock or excavating sands and gravels are similar to those used in surface mining operations and, in recent times, often approach the scale, capacity and output of large metalliferous mines.

This chapter identifies some of the more important aspects of mineral extraction relevant to aggregate production but is necessarily a simplified and condensed review of the methods and equipment used in the quarrying industry.

The methods and equipment employed to extract aggregates depend primarily on the type of deposit or source rock being worked. The selection of particular techniques and machines

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