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The Mining Process

Bauxite is found within the caprock layer of the soil profile, 30cm to 2m below the surface of the jarrah forest.
 
Bauxite is mined through the following series of processes:
 
- Exploration Drilling
- Mine Planning
- Clearing
- Top Soil and Overburden Removal
- Secondary Overburden Removal (SOBR)
- Backfilling and Drilling
- Breaking Caprock
- Mining, Crushing and Conveying
 
The first step in the mining process is locating deposits of bauxite which is carried out through explorative drilling. Once a bauxite deposit is located, the area is logged, removing any worthwhile products including sawlogs, fence posts and firewood.  Some of the remaining wood is used to produce charcoal.  Other logs, stumps and rocks are put aside to be used an animal habitats in rehabilitated mined areas.
 
After the area has been logged, the area is cleared of all other trees and vegetation.  This process is referred to as clearing.
 
The topsoil (0-15cm) is stripped from the area to be mined and it is usually directly returned to a nearby pit undergoing rehabilitation.  The underlying layer is called overburden (~15-100cm); this overburden is stripped and stockpiled for later use when the pit is rehabilitated. 
 
The caprock forms a hard sheet so it needs to be broken to enable the ore to be transported.  To break the ore it is either blasted or ripped with a very large bulldozer.
 
The 3-5m layer of caprock and friable bauxite is removed using large excavators or front-end loaders.
 
The ore is taken to the crusher in haul trucks where it is crushed into smaller pieces that can be transported along the conveyor belt to the refinery.
 
When mining is completed, the pit is rehabilitated
 
After mining the edges of the mine pit are battered down to blend with the contoured landscape of the surrounding forest.  Topsoil and overburden are returned to the site and the earth is prepared to prevent soil erosion and for seeding and planting.  Logs and rocks put aside during clearing are now returned to provide shelter and nesting sites for animals.
 


Excavator mining.

Click image to enlarge.


Excavator mining and loading bauxite into a 730E haul truck at Huntly mine.