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Overburden at a coal mining site Overburden-dredge-yallourn.jpg
Overburden at a coal mining site

In mining, overburden (also called waste or spoil) is the material that lies above an area that lends itself to economical exploitation, such as the rock, soil, and ecosystem that lies above a coal seam or ore body. Overburden is distinct from tailings, the material that remains after economically valuable components have been extracted from the generally finely milled ore. Overburden is removed during surface mining, but is typically not contaminated with toxic components. Overburden may also be used to restore an exhausted mining site to a semblance of its appearance before mining began. [1]

Mining The extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner.

Coal A combustible sedimentary rock composed primarily of carbon

Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other elements; chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen. Coal is formed if dead plant matter decays into peat and over millions of years the heat and pressure of deep burial converts the peat into coal. Vast deposits of coal originates in former wetlands—called coal forests—that covered much of the Earth's tropical land areas during the late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) and Permian times.

Ore rock with valuable metals, minerals and elements

An ore is a natural occurrence of rock or sediment that contains sufficient minerals with economically important elements, typically metals, that can be economically extracted from the deposit. The ores are extracted at a profit from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable element, or elements.


Interburden is material that lies between two areas of economic interest, such as the material separating coal seams within strata. [2] [3]

Analogous uses

Overburden is also used for all soil and ancillary material above the bedrock horizon in a given area.

By analogy, overburden is also used to describe the soil and other material that lies above a specific geologic feature, such as a buried astrobleme, or above an unexcavated site of archeological interest.

Excavation (archaeology) Exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains

In archaeology, excavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. An excavation site or "dig" is a site being studied. Such a site excavation concerns itself with a specific archaeological site or a connected series of sites, and may be conducted over as little as several weeks to over a number of years.

In particle physics, the overburden of an underground laboratory may be important to shield the facility from cosmic radiation that can interfere with experiments.

Particle physics Branch of physics

Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the nature of the particles that constitute matter and radiation. Although the word particle can refer to various types of very small objects, particle physics usually investigates the irreducibly smallest detectable particles and the fundamental interactions necessary to explain their behaviour. By our current understanding, these elementary particles are excitations of the quantum fields that also govern their interactions. The currently dominant theory explaining these fundamental particles and fields, along with their dynamics, is called the Standard Model. Thus, modern particle physics generally investigates the Standard Model and its various possible extensions, e.g. to the newest "known" particle, the Higgs boson, or even to the oldest known force field, gravity.

In arboriculture, the word is also used for the soil over the top of the roots of a tree collected from the wild.

Arboriculture all measures on tree and tree environment to avoid undesirable developments and to maintain the vitality of a tree

Arboriculture is the cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants. The science of arboriculture studies how these plants grow and respond to cultural practices and to their environment. The practice of arboriculture includes cultural techniques such as selection, planting, training, fertilization, pest and pathogen control, pruning, shaping, and removal. The cultivation of trees and shrubs especially for ornamental purpose is called as ARBORICULTURE A person who practices or studies arboriculture can be termed an 'arborist' or an 'arboriculturist'. A 'tree surgeon' is more typically someone who is trained in the physical maintenance and manipulation of trees and therefore more a part of the arboriculture process rather than an arborist. Risk management, legal issues, and aesthetic considerations have come to play prominent roles in the practice of arboriculture. Businesses often need to hire arboriculturists to complete "tree hazard surveys" and generally manage the trees on-site to fulfill occupational safety and health obligations.

Root part of plant

In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. Roots can also be aerial or aerating, that is, growing up above the ground or especially above water. Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either. Therefore, the root is best defined as the non-leaf, non-nodes bearing parts of the plant's body. However, important internal structural differences between stems and roots exist.

See also


  1. Kogel, Jessica Elzea (editor) (2006) Industrial minerals & rocks: commodities, markets, and uses (7th edition) Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (U.S.), Littleton, Colorado, page 379, ISBN   0-87335-233-5
  2. United States Bureau of Mines (1980) Selective Interburden Handling Techniques National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia, OCLC   42983831
  3. Peng, Syd S. (1986) Coal Mine Ground Control (2nd edition), Wiley, New York, page 303, ISBN   0-471-82171-3

Related Research Articles

Coal mining Process of getting coal out of the ground

Coal mining is the process of extracting coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and, since the 1880s, has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United Kingdom and South Africa, a coal mine and its structures are a colliery, a coal mine a pit, and the above-ground structures the pit head. In Australia, "colliery" generally refers to an underground coal mine. In the United States, "colliery" has been used to describe a coal mine operation but nowadays the word is not commonly used.

Open-pit mining surface mining technique of extracting rock or minerals from the earth

Open-pit, open-cast or open cut mining is a surface mining technique of extracting rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit or borrow.

Mining engineering engineering discipline that involves the practice, the theory, the science, the technology, and applicatIon of extracting and processing minerals from a naturally occurring environment

Mining engineering is an engineering discipline that applies science and technology to the extraction of minerals from the earth. Mining engineering is associated with many other disciplines, such as mineral processing, Exploration, Excavation, geology, and metallurgy, geotechnical engineering and surveying. A mining engineer may manage any phase of mining operations – from exploration and discovery of the mineral resource, through feasibility study, mine design, development of plans, production and operations to mine closure.

Gangue is the term used to describe rocks that cannot be used in the miners language

In mining, gangue is the oft commercially worthless material that surrounds, or is closely mixed with, a wanted mineral in an ore deposit. It is thus distinct from overburden, which is the waste rock or materials overlying an ore or mineral body that are displaced during mining without being processed, and from tailings, which is rock already stripped of valuable minerals; a worthless rock containing valuable material.

Longwall mining a form of underground coal mining where a long wall of coal is mined in a single slice

Longwall mining is a form of underground coal mining where a long wall of coal is mined in a single slice. The longwall panel is typically 3 – 4 km long and 250 – 400 m wide.

Mountaintop removal mining form of surface mining that involves the mining of the summit or summit ridge of a mountain

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR), also known as mountaintop mining (MTM), is a form of surface mining at the summit or summit ridge of a mountain. Coal seams are extracted from a mountain by removing the land, or overburden, above the seams. This method of coal mining is conducted in the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States. Explosives are used to remove up to 400 vertical feet of mountain to expose underlying coal seams. Excess rock and soil is dumped into nearby valleys, in what are called "holler fills" or "valley fills". Less expensive to execute and requiring fewer employees, mountaintop removal mining began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. It is primarily occurring in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Surface mining broad category of mining

Surface mining, including strip mining, open-pit mining and mountaintop removal mining, is a broad category of mining in which soil and rock overlying the mineral deposit are removed, in contrast to underground mining, in which the overlying rock is left in place, and the mineral is removed through shafts or tunnels.

Spoil tip pile built of accumulated spoil

A spoil tip is a pile built of accumulated spoil – the overburden or other waste rock removed during coal and ore mining. These waste materials are typically composed of shale, as well as smaller quantities of carboniferous sandstone and various other residues. Spoil tips are not formed of slag, but in some areas they are referred to as slag heaps.

Underground mining (soft rock) the production of underground cavities in the mountains in a closed construction

Underground soft rock mining is a group of underground mining techniques used to extract coal, oil shale, potash and other minerals or geological materials from sedimentary ("soft") rocks. Because deposits in sedimentary rocks are commonly layered and relatively less hard, the mining methods used differ from those used to mine deposits in igneous or metamorphic rocks. Underground mining techniques also differ greatly from those of surface mining.

Heap leaching

Heap leaching is an industrial mining process used to extract precious metals, copper, uranium, and other compounds from ore using a series of chemical reactions that absorb specific minerals and re-separate them after their division from other earth materials. Similar to in situ mining, heap leach mining differs in that it places ore on a liner, then adds the chemicals via drip systems to the ore, whereas in situ mining lacks these liners and pulls pregnant solution up to obtain the minerals. Most mining companies favor the economic feasibility of heap leaching, considering that heap leaching is a better alternative to conventional processing methods such as such as flotation, agitation, and vat leaching.

Room and pillar, is a mining system in which the mined material is extracted across a horizontal plane, creating horizontal arrays of rooms and pillars. To do this, "rooms" of ore are dug out while "pillars" of untouched material are left to support the roof overburden. Calculating the size, shape, and position of pillars is a complicated procedure, and is an area of active research. The technique is usually used for relatively flat-lying deposits, such as those that follow a particular stratum. Room and pillar mining can be advantageous because it reduces the risk of surface subsidence compared to other underground mining techniques. It is also advantageous because it can be mechanized, and is relatively simple. However, because significant portions of ore may have to be left behind, recovery and profits can be low. Room and pillar mining was one of the earliest methods used, although with significantly more man-power.

Environmental impact of the coal industry

The environmental impact of the coal industry includes issues such as land use, waste management, water and air pollution, caused by the coal mining, processing and the use of its products. In addition to atmospheric pollution, coal burning produces hundreds of millions of tons of solid waste products annually, including fly ash, bottom ash, and flue-gas desulfurization sludge, that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals.

Outline of mining Overview of and topical guide to mining

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to mining:

Mining in the United Kingdom

Mining in the United Kingdom produces a wide variety of fossil fuels, metals, and industrial minerals due to its complex geology. In 2013, there were over 2,000 active mines, quarries, and offshore drilling sites on the continental land mass of the United Kingdom producing £34bn of minerals and employing 36,000 people.

Pittsburgh coal seam

The Pittsburgh Coal Seam is the thickest and most extensive coal bed in the Appalachian Basin; hence, it is the most economically important coal bed in the eastern United States. The Upper Pennsylvanian Pittsburgh coal bed of the Monongahela Group is extensive and continuous, extending over 11,000 mi2 through 53 counties. It extends from Allegany County, Maryland to Belmont County, Ohio and from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania southwest to Putnam County, West Virginia.

Environmental impact of mining

Environmental impacts of mining can occur at local, regional, and global scales through direct and indirect mining practices. Impacts can result in erosion, sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, or the contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface water by the chemicals emitted from mining processes. These processes also have an impact on the atmosphere from the emissions of carbon which have effect on the quality of human health and biodiversity. Some mining methods may have such significant environmental and public health effects that mining companies in some countries are required to follow not so strict environmental and rehabilitation codes to ensure that the mined area returns to its original state.

Hambach surface mine open-pit lignite mine in Germany

The Tagebau Hambach is a large open-pit coal mine in Niederzier and Elsdorf, North Rhine–Westphalia, Germany. It is operated by RWE and used for mining lignite.

Kayenta Mine

The Kayenta mine is a surface coal mine operated by Peabody Western Coal Company on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. About 400 acres are mined and reclaimed each year, providing about 8 million tons of coal annually to the Navajo Generating Station.

Arigna Mining Experience Coal mining museum in County Roscommon, Ireland

The Arigna Mining Experience is a centre dedicated to the coal mining history of Arigna over a period of 400 years, local geology and coal, as well as new forms of renewable energy. It is Ireland's first museum dedicated to coal mining.


Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of overburden at Wiktionary