Humans have carried on mining operations since the beginning of time. Prehistoric people mined the “Lion Cave” in Swaziland for a type of iron oxide as early as 41,000 BC which they used like glitter to decorate their bodies.  Today, miners explore for oil, gas, rock salt, stone, gravel, coal and minerals—both base and precious metals—from every column of the periodic chart.
Mining is divided into two segments, surface and underground. Underground mining, once much more common, has been outpaced by surface mining in modern times. Surface mining delivers 85 percent of minerals and 98 percent of metallic ores. Quarrying, open pit mining, strip mining and mountaintop removal (used primarily for coal mining) are all forms of surface mining. 
Similarly, mining companies fall into either of two categories. Majors and Juniors.
Major mining companies are usually publicly-held multinational firms with revenue of $500 million or more. Their role in the industry is that of producer; they perform the on-going mining operation required to extract target minerals from the earth, then to handle mine closure and land reclamation once the site becomes unproductive.
Junior mining companies primarily take on the role of exploration. Their exploration activities provide the major companies with new sites to mine.  While their revenue seldom exceeds $50 million, it is the junior minors that drive industry growth.
Just as sales organizations often divide their sales team into “hunters” who find new business, and “farmers” who cultivate each account to maximize revenue, junior companies are the “hunters” of the mining industry. They secure its future. As such, junior mining companies as “playing a senior role” in the industry. 
Because junior companies are staffed with highly trained engineers, geophysicists, geologists and scientists, they have the expertise to identify sites that are most likely to produce target minerals in economic quantity over a significant period of time. Exploration includes studying properties that have previously been productive, usually referred to as “brown fields,” as well as so-called “green fields” that have not previously been mined. 
A range of technologies allow miners to evaluate a given plot. Geophysical surveys, often done from an aircraft, look for gravitational and magnetic signatures that indicate presence of a particular mineral. Electromagnetic studies determine the electrical conductivity of rock. Satellite imagery, including satellite-based spectroscopy, uses the visible spectrum and those beyond visible to identify desirable characteristics. These and other techniques lead to a step known as resource evaluation, a process that estimates the quality and expected yield from the site. This step requires drilling and core sampling. 
Sign up for our free newsletter for updates on our latest posts, press, and anything else Star Mountain related!