9 fascinating facts about mining

Mining may not be something most of us think about, but this multi-billion dollar industry plays a fundamental role in our everyday lives – there are over 15 different mined minerals in the average car, for example, and it requires as many as 35 mined minerals to produce a television. Now that we’ve got you thinking about mining, let’s dig a little deeper into this fascinating industry.

Total revenue

Statista.com reports that the total revenue of the world’s top 40 global mining companies, which together make up a significant majority of the entire industry, amounted to a staggering $692 billion in 2019. 

Most mined minerals

Coal, iron and bauxite are the most mined minerals globally. And if you’re wondering about bauxite, it’s a sedimentary rock named for Les Baux, the French village where it was discovered by geologist Pierre Berthier. Bauxite has a high aluminium content and is the dominant source of aluminium and gallium – a soft metal used in the manufacture of electronic goods.  

The origins of mining

The Guiness Book of Records lists a chert mine at Nazlet Sabaha, Garb, Egypt as the oldest mine in the world – it’s estimated that mining operations began around 100 000 years ago. And just in case you’re wondering, chert is a sedimentary rock consisting almost entirely of silica.

The world’s deepest mine

Interestingly, six of the world’s 10 deepest mines are located in South Africa, with the Mponeng gold mine topping the list with an operating depth of over 4 km. To give you an idea of just how far down it goes, it’s as deep as 10x the height of the Empire State Building.

Underground living

Coober Pedy, a town situated in the Australian Outback, is famous for two things. Firstly, it’s the world’s largest source of opals. Secondly, and rather more interestingly, roughly 60% of the population live underground in disused mines to escape the scorching temperatures. There’s also an underground hotel complete with restaurant, bar and gift shop as well as a church. Keen to see what subterranean living looks like? Take a look.

Mean mining machine

The Bagger 293 Bucket-wheel Excavator is the mining industry’s largest machine, with dimensions so staggering, it needs to be seen to be believed. At a lofty 96 m, it’s the same height as a 30-storey building, and (unsurprisingly), holds the Guinness World Record for the highest terrestrial vehicle. This monster is also 225 m long (imagine two Olympic-sized swimming pools placed one after the other) and weighs a whopping 14,200 tonnes.


You probably know that carats describe the purity of gold. But, ever wondered where the word originated? It dates back to medieval times when coins called marks were used as currency and each one weighed 24 carats – at the time a carat was equal in weight to a red coral tree seed (often referred to as a ‘lucky bean’). As Britannica.com explains, “Pure gold could not be used to produce marks because it was too soft, so copper or other metals were added to produce a hard alloy; the purity of the coin was then expressed by the proportion of its carat weight that was actually contributed by gold.”

Mining the Final Frontier

The first space race was all about putting a man on the moon. The second, it seems, is likely to have to do with mining asteroids – and there are already several companies waiting in the wings. According to Physicsworld.com, two types of asteroids are likely to interest those hoping to mine in space: achondrites “which are rich in platinum group metals” and chondrites which contain water that “will be precious for the Moon bases and hotels promised by today’s space entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk (founder of SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (founder of Blue Origin).”

Cyber mining

No excavation of mining would be complete without a look at mining of the digital variety. Bitcoin mining dates back to January 2009, when Satoshi Nakamoto earned 50 bitcoins for mining block number 0 of the bitcoin network. And if you still haven’t a clue what it is or how it works, Investopedia describes this type of mining as “the process by which new bitcoins are entered into circulation” and “a critical component of the maintenance and development of the blockchain ledger. It is performed using very sophisticated computers that solve extremely complex computational math problems.” 

Need mining expertise?

Lithon’s team of experienced mining engineers and specialist sub-consultants provides a comprehensive range of cost-effective services from feasibility studies, exploration and evaluation through to full implementation of mining projects for both greenfield and brownfield projects. Our multi-disciplinary engineering offering includes all local on-site infrastructure and bulk off-site infrastructure for water, roads, rails, electricity and mechanical services. We’d love to discuss your next project with you – please feel free to get in touch with a member of our team today.