Mining Machines

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Mining Machines

Firstly, Mining Tools in 2024—A Guide to Mining Equipment and Mining Machines

Mining tools is a general phrase that refers to all the mining equipment and mining machines used to extract minerals from the earth.

Mined minerals appear in almost every consumer product—from cars, to electronics, to jewelry and more. Minerals like uranium and coal are major energy sources that account for 50% of the US’s energy supply.

All of these resources are obtain through the use of various types of mining tools and mining equipment.

Before we begin identifying key mining tools and mining machines, it’s important to understand the different types of mining methods for which these tools are use.

Toward that end, the first section of this guide covers the different mining techniques and methods. After we provide that context for the different ways mining is done we’ll dive into the specific tools use for each type of mining.

Types of Mining Methods 

Mining falls into two categories: surface mining and underground mining.

The type of minerals that a mining operation is trying to extract and the mining techniques they’re using to extract those minerals directly informs the types of tools that miners use in their work.

That being said, a basic method is always follow for both surface and underground mining. That method is:

  1. Extraction. Extraction consists of digging, drilling, or blasting into the earth to extract minerals.
  2. Material handling. Material handling consists of sorting through materials, sending target minerals to a processing site, and sending irrelevant materials to a waste area.
  3. Material processing. Material processing is where minerals go to be smelt, crush, grind, or refine, converting the minerals into finish products for distribution.


Surface mining is a mining method used to extract minerals that are close to the earth’s surface.

Mining methods for surface mining include:

  • Strip mining. Strip mining removes thin layers of surface material in order to reach the mineral. The layer above the mineral is call overburden, and it typically consists of soil and rocks. This surface mining technique is commonly use to extract coal that is laying near the surface, and it is a method that is use to prepare the area for open-pit mining.
  • Open pit mining. Open-pit mining is a technique that involves drilling into the earth’s surface to set explosives. These explosions create a large pit for miners to access underlying rocks. This surface mining technique can be use to extract silver.
  • Quarrying. Quarrying is a process in which miners cut blocks of hard stone. Miners will also extract by-products of these hard stones, like sand, gravel, or small stones. Quarrying is made accessible by open-pit mining. This surface mining technique is typically use to extract granite, marble, and other hard stones.
  • In-situ leach (ISL) mining. In-situ mining is primarily use for extracting uranium, which is use for nuclear power. This surface mining technique consists of dissolving the mineral in place without moving rock from the surface layers.
  • Placer mining. Placer mining is use to extract gold from sand or gravel by using pans and water. Gold, which has a higher density than sand and gravel, will sink faster, making it easier to collect.



There are several minerals that cannot be extract by surface mining techniques.

In this case, underground mining will be use. Because of the confined nature of underground mining, the extraction process is different.

Mining methods for underground mining include:

  • Blast mining. Blast mining, just as it sounds, utilizes explosives to remove hard rock layers, loosen rocks, and open up underground mining areas.
  • Room and pillar mining. Room and pillar mining consists of the construction of rectangular pillars to support the weight of the ceiling while miners clear out the minerals from around the pillars. This technique can be done by specialized underground mining equipment.
  • Retreat mining. Retreat mining is the process of removing the pillars from room and pillar mining. This underground mining technique strategically removes the pillars, extracting the remaining mineral from the mine. As the pillars are removed, the mine collapses onto itself. This is an incredibly dangerous underground mining technique. A lot of careful planning goes into the pillar removal process to prevent injury and death.
  • Block caving. Block caving is a large-scale mining method that requires a longer development stage than any other underground mining method. This method blasts a gap at the bottom of the rock mass which causes the rock above to break up and collapse to fill the void while the surface of the mie caves inwards.
  • Cut and fill mining. ​​Is a small-scale mining method that involves cutting horizontal slices in the orebody. Once the level is excavated, the level is backfilled and excavation moves up to the next level.
  • Drift and fill mining. Drift and fill mining is used when an orebody is wider than the drift itself. Drifts will be mined adjacent to one another, backfilling one before excavating another drift.
  • Longwall mining. Longwall mining is commonly used in coal mines and involves the use of a shearer set on a kilometer long track to grind coal from the mine face.
  • Shrinkage stope mining. Shrinkage stope mining is a highly productive mining method that is used to mine steep, uniform orebodies. Primary and secondary stopes are blasted throughout the orebody, with the primary stope being excavated and backfilled before extracting ore from the secondary stope.
  • Sublevel caving. Sublevel caving is used on orebodies with a steep dip. Ore is extracted from the footwall side to prevent fracturing. The orebody is blasted from the top down while the host rock on the hanging wall caves.

[For a deep dive into the mining industry, see our resource, Mining Industry: A Complete Guide]

mining-tools-flyability-3Salt mine | Source: Szabolcs Molnar from Pixabay


Different mining tools are use for different types of minerals and mining techniques.

There are specific mining tools for soft rocks and specific tools for hard rocks, just as there are specific mining machines for surface mining techniques and specific tools for underground mining techniques.

The basic difference between soft rock mining and hard rock mining is that hard rock mining requires the use of explosive, and soft rock mining does not.

Soft Rock Mines

  • Do not require explosives for extraction.
  • Examples of soft rock minerals include salt, coal, bauxite, and potash.
  • All of these minerals can be mine using only specialize mining machinery.

Hard Rock Mines

  • Require explosives for extraction.
  • Examples of hard rock minerals include copper, gold, iron, lead, platinum, silver, uranium, and zinc.
  • In hard rock mines, hydraulic drills are use to drill holes where explosives can be insert and then blast.

Mining Tools and Equipment

There are a lot of different types of tools use in mining.

Instead of naming all these tools in one giant list, we’ve organized this guide into the different types of mining methods and the tools used for each one.

But before we dive into those specific categories, we wanted to share a list of mining tools and equipment by category so you can have a general understanding of what each category contains.

Here’s a general list of mining tools and equipment:

  • Miner tools—tools that miners carry on them, like pickaxe and chisels.
  • Mining PPE—equipment that miners use to stay safe while working.
  • Surface mining equipment—all the tools and mining machines used for surface mining.
  • Underground mining equipment—all the tools and mining machines used for underground mining.

Now that we’ve covered things at a high level, let’s dive into each specific category.

Miner Tools

To this day, miners still use traditional mining tools, including:

  • Pickaxes.
  • Hammers.
  • Chisels.
  • Shovels (for both surface and underground mining).

Mining PPE

In addition to traditional mining tools, miners also carry mining PPE on them at all times, including things like:

  • Air respirator systems. For breathing clean air.
  • Cap lights. Lights that are attache on top of protective headwear.
  • Detection solutions. For locating miners.
  • Fall protection. An array of safety tools to protect miners from falling. 
  • Hearing protection. For working in loud conditions.
  • Miner’s pouch. A miner’s belt that provides lumbar support and carries cap light battery packs, tools, and a self rescuer.
  • Protective communications. Wireless two way communications, plus a two way phone for emergency situations.
  • Protective eyewear. To protect the eyes. 
  • Protective headwear. To help protect the head from falling debris, etc.
  • Reflective clothing. A safety measure so miners can easily be seen.
  • Self-rescuers. A personal emergency respiratory protection device against carbon monoxide and other harmful noxious gases.

Surface Mining Equipment

Here are all the types of mining tools used in surface mining:


Also, Blasthole drills are mining machines that drill holes into the earth’s surface for placing explosives.

mining-tools-flyability-5Blasthole drill | Source: Cat Models


Bucket-wheel excavators are use in open-pit mining. These mining tools continuously dig, transport, and load materials, excavating up to 240,000 cubic tons of minerals per day.



Dozers are earth-movers that drag dirt from one area to another.



Dragline excavators are use in strip mining to remove overburden. The massive bucket system is attache to large booms and dragged across the surface of the earth for excavation. This is one of the largest pieces of land mining equipment used in mining, or any industry.



Graders are use to create viable roads for mining trucks so they can transport minerals out of the mine and keep them profitable.



Highwall miners are mining machines that extract coal from exposed seams. The highwall miners rotate up and down a wall, grinding mineral deposits out of the walls. These mining tools are also use for trench mining.



Mining trucks are essentially large dump trucks use for mining. New technology has developed fully autonomous mining trucks that use both LiDAR and radar to freely move around a mining site.



Shovels are use for digging and to extract broken rocks and minerals.



Wheel tractor scrapers are another earth-mover that operates similarly to a carpenter’s plane. Unlike dozers, scrapers have the capability to load and carry materials.


Underground Mining Equipment

Here are all the types of mining tools used in underground mining:


Crane lifts are versatile in underground mining. These mining machines can be use to load explosives and carry other heavy loads and mining equipment.



Continuous miners are a type of ming equipment used in room and pillar mining, and have a large rotating drum with carbide teeth to scrape coal from seams. These mining tools can mine up to five tons of coal a minute and account for approximately 45% of underground coal production. They also have conveyor belts that transport coal, making this an automate process that is control remotely.



Underground mining drones, like Flyability’s Elios 3, are use for visual inspections in stopes, ore passes, ventilation shafts, conveyor belts, and other areas of an underground mine.

Drone technology has allowed inspections to be conduct in areas that are unsafe for humans to enter, presenting an invaluable tool in such hazardous conditions. But not all drones can be use in mines. For a drone to be functional in an underground mine, it’s important that it be able to operate without GPS.



Jumbo drills or mining drills are use to drill holes for explosives or to create mine shafts for miners to enter. 



Loaders and haulers are an extremely compact and maneuverable type of equipment used in underground mining, which is designed specifically for underground work. Just like their names suggest, these mining tools load and haul away minerals.



Longwall mining machines are the most common machines use in underground coal mining. These mining tools are use to build underground galleries and tunnels by leveraging the machine’s shearing capabilities.



Personnel vehicles transport miners and their supplies down a shaft to the underground mine.



Refuge chambers are stand-alone safety chambers for miners that are equip with oxygen, food, water, and sanitary necessities in case of an emergency. These chambers can safely hold miners for 96 hours to eight days.



Rock dusters are essential to preventing mining shafts from combusting. Dusters apply inert dust, or dust with a small amount of combustible materials, to counter the coal dust. This process is especially important when planned explosions are taking place.



Roof bolters secure the ceiling of the mine with safety jacks to help prevent cave-ins.



Scoops are use in room and pillar mining to load minerals onto trucks in an underground mine.



Shotcrete machines spray concrete along mine tunnel walls and ceilings to reinforce the structural integrity of a mine shaft or tunnel. 



Shuttle cars transport minerals to conveyor belts in room and pillar mining. These tools travel to the most remote sections of the mine.



Underground rails haul miners and materials in and out of a mine. It can sometimes take an hour or more for miners to arrive in the work zone.



Ventilations systems are crucial for workers to be present in the mines due to the noxious nature of coal and, specifically, coal dust. These systems are used to provide clean air for workers and regulate temperatures underground.


It’s important to note that underground mining tools that operate in an enclosed environment are no-emission machines. They are specially built to still have the power to move tons of rocks at a time in these harsh conditions.

Other Mining Tools

There are a number of other mining tools that are used in both surface and underground mining. Surface level processing mines are used in both types of mining too, and include an array of transport and processing tools.



Hoppers supply conveyor belts with a specified amount of ore and waste at specified rates.



A chute uses gravity to transport materials from one process to another process. Chutes can feed crushers, feeders, stackers, and mills.



Conveyor belts are used at the root of mining activity (known as the mine face), first to transport the ore to a processing location, and then also to blend, mix, and stock the minerals.



Stackers pile bulk materials onto a stockpile and can also carry oversized material to a tailings pile.



Reclaimers are used to collect and transfer materials between stockpiles. These are set on rails.



Feeders typically are use to transfer rough materials into a crusher. They can also be use to feed material from a crusher to a hopper, used to unload a rail cart, or feed materials into a storage bin.



Crushers break down large rocks into small rocks, gravel, sand, and rock dust. Common types of crushers include:

  • Cone crusher
  • Crusher bucket
  • Gyratory crusher
  • Impact crusher
  • Jaw crusher
  • Mineral sizers


SAG, ball, and grinder mills are use in on-site processing plants to extract the desire product from the ore by grinding the ore into smaller materials.



Screens sort, classify, dewater, scalp, and deslime materials. Common types of screens include:

  • Centrifuge baskets
  • Cross-flow sieves
  • Dewatering screens
  • Flat panel screens
  • Mining trommel screens
  • Sieve bends/DSM screens
  • Vibrator screens


Lastly, Roasters are used as in on-site processing. Roasters heat a sulfide ore in air to break it down to a more refined state.



Mixers and agitators are used in chemical processing of ore through the process of extractive metallurgy, which separate metals from mineral deposits.


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