Mining methods explained

Ever wondered what the key differences between underground mining and surface mining are? Or heard the terms “placer mining”, “strip mining”, or “in situ mining” and not known quite what they meant? With the range of differing methods depending on geography, geology and commodity, a little background knowledge can go a long way – especially when it comes to purchasing the right equipment for the job.

If you don’t know your underground mining from placer mining, or struggle to understand the differences between surface mining and in situ mining, you’re not alone.

But a little knowledge can go a long way when you know about different types of mining methods, can spot the differences between surface mining equipment and underground mining equipment, and know the pros and cons of each.

The location, the commodities that are being mined, the host geology and the surrounding environment – built or natural - could be determining factors in the types of mining methods that are common from one jurisdiction to the next.

Keep reading below to find out more or reach out to our mining team by filling out the form.

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The four mining methods

Common Australian Mining Methods


Underground mines are commonly used to reach deeper mineral deposits. Sometimes, miners may commence with surface mining then move to underground mining to dig to greater depth or follow narrower veins. Underground coal mining is common where mining activities may be carried out in close proximity to built-up areas. Underground mining may also be used to minimise surface disruption. It is an expensive method of mining compared to some other mining methods.


Surface mines are typically used for more shallow deposits and less valuable commodities. Also known as open cut mining, this method can be more common in less built-up areas and where there may be lower risk of impact on the environment. This method allows for large quantities of ore to be mined with machines like draglines and shovels, and moved quickly with off highway mining trucks, as is seen in iron ore mining methods.

Other Mining Methods


Placer mining is used to sift out minerals from sediments in river channels, beach sands, or other similar sorts of environments. It is most commonly used to mine precious metals such as gold and silver, essentially a scaled-up version of the panning and sieving methods used by small-time prospectors.


In-situ mining, used most commonly for mining uranium, is a method of dissolving the mineral resource where it occurs, then bringing the solution to the surface for processing. It allows miners to access the required mineral without moving the host rock from the ground.

mining equipment

Equipment for every type of mining operation

Whether its underground mining, surface mining or any of the other mining methods that you need equipment for, the Cat® range of products caters for nearly every occasion. Browse the equipment range or get in touch to find out more.

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