New Way of Looking at Chemistry

We very rarely include photographs of large industrial activity in college text books.   Aerial views are the best way to show how our chemical demands are changing the face of the earth.

Think all of the gold mines are in Africa?  Think again.  Here’s one in Papa New Guinea which is expected to produce one million ounces of gold per year through 2020:

Aerial view of Lihir Gold Mine in Papa New Guinea
Aerial view of Lihir Gold Mine in Papa New Guinea

Iron is mainly used in steel.  Here are two photos of mining in Australia where they are processing iron ore:

Credit:  Marine Ventures Foundation
Credit: Marine Ventures Foundation
Iron ore processing equipment in Australia.  Credit:  Marine Ventures Foundation
Iron ore processing equipment in Australia. Credit: Marine Ventures Foundation

Our demand for stainless steel and other alloys are driving demand for nickel.   Companies are looking to dry nickel laterites to fill in the gap from years of exploitation of sulphide nickel ores.

Nickel laterite project in New Caledonia from Canadian Mining Review
Nickel laterite project in New Caledonia from Canadian Mining Review

In the future the mining industry will be using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to measure stockpiles, cut and fill volumes and for facilities management and safety monitoring as shown below:

Artist's conception of a mining industry drone.  Credit:  Bluesky
Artist’s conception of a mining industry drone. Credit: Bluesky

On Colorado River, near Moab, UT. Potash beds are solution mined from deep underground. The solution is pumped to the surface and evaporated to a salt in these ponds.  30 million tons of potash a year are used in fertilizers.

Potash ponds near Moab, Utah.  Credit:  AirPhotoNA.com
Potash ponds near Moab, Utah. Credit: AirPhotoNA.com
Another view of potash ponds near Moab.  Aerial photo by Alexander Heilner
Another view of potash ponds near Moab. Aerial photo by Alexander Heilner

Cargill produces 650,000 tons of salt annually by crystalizing natural sea salt from the San Francisco Bay’s waters. The colors are produced by varying concentrations of algae, brine shrimp, and other pond life. Organisms and colors change as the salinity changes.

Cargill salt ponds.  Photo by Robert Campbell
Cargill salt ponds. Photo by Robert Campbell

There is good news – the state of California recently purchased the Cargill salt ponds and will be converting them into a variety of wetland habitats as part of the South Bay Restoration Project.

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