Mountains reveal the patterns of rock formation that we would never be able to see firsthand. This is why it makes for attractive places to mine; the subsurface processes that make and deposit the metals and minerals exposed upward through organic overburden.
Costmine Intelligence collects data on over 20,000 projects and out of these projects, including their altitude data. This data set reveals the patterns of global alpine mining on 314 projects that are in exploration stage, in production or recently suspended.
Digging into the Data
This data can be mapped to show the location of mines at or above 2500 metres to 5300 metres. Out of the total 314 projects, Latin America has the largest concentration of alpine mines with ~88% of the mines. The second largest concentration is China with 18 projects, and the US with 10.
The bulk of the projects are base and precious metals projects taking up 43%, while 24.8% are solely precious metals and 12.5% just base metals. There are 36 lithium projects at elevation primarily in the Lithium Triangle of South America.
Top 20 Highest Mines
Filo Del Sol
Volcan (Dorado / Ojo de Agua)
Zijin Mining/Tibet Gulong
Bear Creek Mining
Heraldos Negros Project
Minera San Valentin
Panthal (Jammu & Kashmir)
Silver Mountain Resources
Mining at Heights
Working at altitude poses a unique set of problems for miners and their equipment. Humans living and working at altitude often experience altitude sickness. Altitude sickness occurs above 2,400 metres. Most altitude sickness symptoms are similar to a hangover or a flu. Some cases can progress to potentially fatal conditions such as high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema.
Machinery and systems often perform differently at high altitude than they do at lower elevations. Vehicle performance can be compromised due to loss of horsepower at high elevations for carbureted gasoline engines.
Diesel has performance issues at colder temperatures around 40°F (~4.4°C) below. Mining operations must balance this information carefully when deciding what types of vehicles and equipment to use for each individual mine site, and no one solution offers a silver bullet to the challenges at each mine site.
At What Altitude are Your Projects?
These projects come with their own unique challenges and as the world enters a new phase of metal demand, we can expect more and more prospectors scouring the craggy cliffs of the world’s mountain regions.