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How Is Silver Mined?

    Finding Silver

    • The term "mining" indicates excavation or extraction of a substance from the soil, rock or from a location inside the earth. It is found during the copper, lead, zinc and gold refining process. It can also be found with minerals like argentite, chlorargyrite, lead, sulfur and arsenic. Alluvial beds, or river beds, can reveal small deposits of silver that have washed down from other areas and this is where many amateur miners mine for silver.

    Mining Silver

    • The way silver is mined depends upon what it is found with. Some silver mining takes place underground, where veins of silver have been located along with other minerals. Finding the veins involves drilling and exploration methods. Other methods happen in open pits, as seen in copper mining. Silver is extracted after the copper has been gathered and lifted out of the pit.

    Anatomy Of A Silver Mine

    • The opening of a mine that leads into the ground is referred to as the headframe, the headgear, the headstock, hoist frame or the gallows. Attached at the headframe is the hoisting pulley and the mechanics needed to lift and drop people and carts into the mine shaft. Shafts usually refer to a vertical descent, although some shafts are arrived at through a horizontal opening because the shaft entry is established farther into the interior of a mountain or hillside. Mining operations require electricity and often have their own power plant --- sometimes they have agreements with local power companies. Mines are usually located away from residential areas and metropolitan areas. This is due to the daily disruption of noise. Extraction can happen on site or at other locations.

    Extracting Silver

    • Originally silver was extracted from lead during Roman times. Extracting it from copper began around the 15th century A.D. Today a combination of processes are used. Smelting occurs using heat and a chemical reducing agent (usually carbon). The process separates the metal from the ore. The reducing agent is obtained from a fuel that produces carbon, like coke. The carbon changes the oxidation state of the ore and reduces the levels of oxygen in the ore, leaving the metal behind. Extraction can also occur through an electrolytic process. Passing an electrical current through the ore separates the bonded compounds.

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