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  • Man-made mines are cut into the Earth so that materials like precious metals, gemstones, and fossil fuels can be extracted. Common materials that are mined include coal, copper, nickel, diamonds, and uranium. People have been mining for thousands of years. Commercial mining takes place on every continent, except Antarctica. The process of mining can have serious negative effects on the environment. Many countries have adopted regulations to help protect the environment from damaging mining practices.

    The images of mines in this gallery were collected from two satellites orbiting the Earth: the IKONOS and GeoEye-1 satellites operated and maintained by GeoEye, a company based out of Herndon, Virginia.

    1. What differences can you identify between the mine sites and the surrounding landscapes?

      Some mines are round in shape and other mines are more linear or angular; the landscape appears to be very hilly around some of the mines, but quite flat around others; one mine is surrounded by a series of ponds or lakes; another mine appears to have some snow cover on the ground around it.

    2. Which countries are represented in the images? Which U.S. states? Which Canadian provinces or territories?

      The countries represented are Canada, the United States, and South Africa. The states represented are Arizona, Utah, Kentucky, and Virginia. The province represented is Manitoba. The territory represented is Northwest Territories in Canada.

    3. Why do we mine materials from the Earth?

      Responses might include information about humans use of mined materials in jewelry, in the manufacturing of industrial and medical products and technologies, for building materials, and for producing energy.

    • The GeoEye-1 satellite that captured many of the mine images weighs over 2 tons (1,814 kilograms) and orbits the Earth at a speed of 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) per second. It is located 423 miles (681 kilometers) above the planet, yet the powerful cameras attached to the satellite can take detailed images of the Earth so that objects like cars and houses can be easily seen.
    • The export of commercial mining products makes up a significant portion of the wealth of many countries, including the Congo (diamonds, copper), Papua New Guinea (gold, copper), and Peru (gold, copper, zinc). Most of mined materials in these countries are exported to the United States, China, and other countries that manufacture products that use these minerals.
    • The export of commercial mining products makes up a significant portion of the wealth of many countries, including the Congo (diamonds, copper), Papua New Guinea (gold, copper), and Peru (gold, copper, zinc). Most of mined materials in these countries are exported to the United States, China, and other countries that manufacture products that use these minerals.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    coal Noun

    dark, solid fossil fuel mined from the earth.

    copper Noun

    chemical element with the symbol Cu.

    diamond Noun

    type of crystal that is pure carbon and the hardest known natural substance.

    gold Noun

    valuable chemical element with the symbol Au.

    mine Verb

    to extract minerals from the Earth.

    mineral Noun

    inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.

    mining Noun

    process of extracting ore from the Earth.

    open-pit mine Noun

    place where rocks, sand, or minerals are extracted from the surface of the Earth.

    uranium Noun

    chemical element with the symbol U. Fuel used to produce nuclear energy.

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