Mining for precious substances is an ancient practice, and the Book of Job states, “Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness.” To this day, the search for precious materials remains a major industry, and estimates of known gold deposits state that there are at least 3 billion ounces in more than 400 producing and undeveloped sites worldwide.
With that much mining activity occurring, it’s inevitable that gold mining equipment will come up for sale in the secondhand market. This Mining Equipment Buying Guide will detail various types of popular gold mining equipment for sale, how different approaches to mining work, and what you should know when looking for large scale gold mining equipment or small-scale gold mining equipment for sale.
Popular Types of Gold Mining Equipment
Mining for gold involves two basic approaches: surface mining and underground mining. Both methods follow the same fundamental method, namely extracting ore, separating waste material from valuable minerals, and processing minerals into a refined state. However, the location of the ore will determine miners’ approach — and what kind of large- or small-scale gold mining equipment they use.
Surface gold mining is by far the easier of the two techniques, and it’s the most commonly used mining approach. In it, miners continuously maintain contact with the earth’s surface, removing topsoil and bedrock as needed to access the desired ore. This method lends itself to extracting low concentrations of different surface-mining approaches include strip mining (removing parallel strips of material to be processed), quarrying (digging an open pit), mountaintop removal (blasting open an elevated rise) and open-pit mining (cratering an area to get at valuable ore). You can expect used gold mining equipment for sale in surface applications to include the following:
- Draglines. In surface mining, the term “overburden” refers to material situated above the desired ore, and dragline excavators remove it. Similar in appearance to a crane, draglines are comprised of a boom, wire ropes, and buckets that scoop up overburden and deposit it elsewhere.
- Shovels. Surface mining shovels bear little resemblance to the implements you use around your home. While technically portable gold mining equipment, they are heavy machinery mounted on treads and with the ability to swivel from side to side. Backhoes are examples of surface mining shovels.
- Loaders. Wheeled surface mining loaders bear a resemblance to bulldozers and come in a variety of sizes, ranging from a quarter of a ton to more than half a ton.
- Haul Trucks. Mining haul trucks can carry extremely large loads of either waste material or ore. In addition to having varying configurations that allow for different load sizes, they also come in either mechanical or electrical drive configurations.
- Highwall Miner. These heavy machines combine cutting arms with conveyor systems to conduct highwall mining operations. They’re typically used to mine coal and are often remote controlled due to the risk inherent in this type of mining.
- Blasthole Drills. Rotary blasthole drills are combined with caterpillar treads and an attached cab to allow for mobile drilling across a site. Various models will include different pulldowns, propulsion, operator visibility, and maintenance requirements.
- Graders. Surface mining graders help remove overfill and construct roads throughout the mining site, which allows for easy moving of other equipment.
- Ball, Pebble, & SAG Grinding Mills. Grinding mills are part of the ore-extraction process, and they mostly vary according to grinding method employed. Ball mills use steel balls to grind down material, while pebble mills use rocks. SAG mills also employ balls, but they typically possess a wider diameter and shorter length then ball mills.
- Crushers. In surface mining, crushers process rock into specific smaller sizes. Some do with mechanical jaws (jaw crushers) and others crush the rock between an unmoving housing and an oscillating part (cone crushers).
- Mineral Separators. Separators ensure that ore gets removed from waste material, and they typically achieve their goal by using magnets, sensors, or spiral-shaped chutes.
Underground gold mining takes exactly the opposite approach of surface gold mining. Rather than significantly disturbing the top of the earth, it involves creating tunnels that burrow underneath known deposits. Miners tend to prefer this technique when they know that they’re dealing with high concentrations of desired minerals. Underground mining tends to have fewer environmental consequences than surface mining, but it’s also significantly more costly and involves much more danger. There are many different underground mining approaches, such as blast mining (using explosives to open up caverns), room and pillar mining (a progressive method that opens up room-like sections while extracting ore), cut and fill mining (a top-to-bottom approach that involves filling areas after horizontally harvesting ore), and longwall mining (grinding ore from the face off the mine). Underground used gold mining equipment may include:
- Longwall Machines. Typically used in coal mining to shear minerals in a continuous slice from a mine wall, longwall machines contain many different components. Such setups require hydraulic jacks for ceiling support, a multi-ton shearer, and an armored face conveyor upon which the shearer moves.
- Continuous Miners. This integrated mining machine combines caterpillar treads, a cutting head, a slanted loader, and a conveyor system. It combined maneuverability with the ability to cut an area in a single pass.
- Roof Bolters. Wheeled roof bolters facilitate the easy transportation and installation of supporting bolts to vulnerable tunnel sections in underground mines.
- Shuttle Cars. Often paired with continuous miners, shuttle cars ferry away the mined material.
- Underground Rail. Underground railway installations can fulfill a number of important functions. Attached locomotives may haul mined material, personnel, maintenance equipment, or inspection equipment.
- Ventilation Fans. Mining ventilation fans ensure that oxygenated air continue to reach miners. They can also remove exhaust and other dangerous gasses from the nearby air.
- Rock Dusters. Often employed in coal mining, rock dusters mix powder with coal dust to help prevent potential explosions.
- Personnel Vehicles. These multi-seat people movers transport workers from the surface into the mine and back out again. They can be either diesel or electrically powered.
- Scoops. These trams play an essential role in underground mining by transporting ore and other materials to various conveyor belt transport systems.
Mining both above ground and underground involves more than just heavy machinery. Miners have their own equipment, and while it’s typically much less specialized than the giant devices designed to tear open mountains and delve deep within the earth, they’re no less important. A gold mining equipment list for personnel will likely include:
Miners also need personal protective equipment, such as:
- Air Respirator Systems
- Cap Lights
- Detection Solutions
- Fall Protection
- Hearing Protection
- Miner’s Pouches
- Protective Communications
- Protective Eyewear
- Protective Headwear
- Reflective Clothing
- Self-Rescuers (i.e., a portable breathing device designed to be used in emergency situations)
Underground vs. Surface Gold Mining Equipment
Though both mining approaches share some broad task similarities as we mentioned above — namely ore extraction, waste matter separation, and mineral refinement — they otherwise involve quite different processes and require highly specialized equipment. The differences become even more pronounced once you examine them both in more detail. For example, surface mining requires less labor, costs less, recovers more ore, and allows the use of heavier equipment. But it often completely reshapes the land on which it occurs and can cause significant ecological damage. Underground mining costs much more, places miners at greater risk, and is uniformly less efficient and productive than surface mining. However, it causes much less of an environmental impact and can tap otherwise unreachable deposits. Both approaches are also used to harvest entirely different mineral assets.
In short, underground mining and surface mining look radically different — and they require radically different equipment. When considering a purchase, make sure that you know which approach you want to use, because there’s precious little capital-asset overlap.
What to Look for When Buying Gold Mining Equipment
Buying most mining equipment isn’t as easy as ordering a consumer item online. In addition to the standard details, you must consider when buying used industrial equipment, there are countless other considerations you must take into account. This section will explain what you need to look for when buying used gold mining equipment.
Needless to say, shipping isn’t always included in your purchase of used gold mining equipment. You should take note of its location prior to purchasing and determine how you will ship it to its final destination. In some cases, transportation may prove price prohibitive.
Inclines and Declines
This consideration has less to do with your desired equipment and more to do with the site that you plan to mine. No matter if you’re considering underground mining or surface mining, if your mining site contains inclines and declines, you’ll need equipment that can help facilitate the work (e.g., ore conveyor belts). This may necessitate additional purchases.
No matter if your gold-mining operation is small or large scale, an essential part of the process is refining the ore. Some sites will use chemical leaching with cyanide as part of the material activation process. While effective, this can also prove quite dangerous, and producers using this process will want to purchase extra safety equipment.
Older equipment is typically less efficient than new equipment. How does the efficiency of the used equipment you’re considering fit with your planned operations?
Similarly, some used equipment may suffer from reliability issues, while other brands can continue to function for years or decades with no reliability problems. Carefully examine your preferred brands to learn more about how they will hold up to standard wear and tear.
Moisture and Humidity
Mining is generally a dry and dusty process — but not always. Because undue moisture and humidity can damage equipment, try to learn more about where the used equipment you’re looking at came from.
Sometimes gold mining and other types of mining will involve material with a looser texture, a texture that’s more apt to slip away if not matched with equipment specifically designed to retain it. Make sure that any equipment you’re considering has material retention options if necessary.
Keeping workers safe is a professional, legal, and ethical priority for any mining operation. Prioritize used equipment that has safety options such as emergency cutoffs and sensors to detect blockages.
Useful Accessories and Equipment
Gold mining equipment is so diverse and specialized that it’s difficult to broadly recommend useful accessories and equipment. In general, add-ons that aid safety are always preferable, and you should make sure you select any available options that make the equipment a better fit for your mining site.
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