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Evolution of Mining-Related Technology: Steam Power and Milling

Steam Power: An Evolution of Mining-Related Technology

Mining has been an essential part of human civilization since ancient times, with many technological advancements created and developed along the way. The focus of mining companies in the Lake Superior district during the mid-19th century was on mineral concentrating. However, metallurgy, as practiced in the mining region, dates back to a much earlier period. The Old Copper Complex of the Western Great Lakes can be dated as far back as 9,500 years ago, and these ancient-period copper producing people were capable of shaft mining to extract native copper.

In addition to mining techniques, metallurgical processes such as annealing and the use of hammering to extract the desired form were utilized. These ancient processes were later evolved and refined as machinery, such as John Collom’s copper washer and William Evans’ rotating slime tables, were designed for treating local copper. Mineral dressing had been developed during the Neolithic period.

Another technology that was originally developed for the industry of mining was steam power. Although the first steps toward practical steam application had begun with Hero of Alexandria in the first century, it wasn’t until 1698, when Thomas Savery was granted a patent for an invention for raising water and occasioning all sorts of mill work by the impellent force of fire, a steam engine. The steam engine was designed to pump water out of the Wheal Von tin mine in Cornwall.

Savery’s steam engine consisted of a chamber, filled with steam from a boiler, and a pipe running from the chamber down into the water that was to be sucked up. The steam was then condensed, and water was sucked up by the resulting vacuum, with steam being admitted into the chamber, which forced the water up a delivery pipe. Although Savery’s fire engine was not very efficient, it was the beginning of the steam engine and the next step toward the industrialization and modernization of mining.

It is ironic that such an advancement in technology was developed for mining and its related industries. While the steam engine was initially designed to pump water out of a mine, it quickly became an essential tool for the transportation industry, allowing for the moving of goods and people. The introduction of steam power to the mining industry not only enabled deeper extraction of minerals but also made it possible to mine previously inaccessible regions of the world.

Related Facts

– The Cornish pump was developed in England in the early 18th century and one of the first machines to use steam power.
– The mining industry was one of the first industries to adopt steam power, and the demand for coal increased with the booming steam engine industry.
– The first steam locomotive was designed by George Stephenson in 1814 and was used to haul coal out of a mine in England.

Key Takeaway

The development of steam power was an evolution of mining-related technology, and it completely changed the way mining was conducted worldwide. The steam engine was initially designed to pump water out of the mines, but it soon became an essential tool for transportation, allowing for easier and faster movement of goods and people.


The mining industry has come a long way since ancient times, with many technological advancements and processes developed along the way. Steam power was one of the most significant technological advancements that allowed for deeper and more efficient extraction of minerals, making it possible to mine previously inaccessible regions. Today, the mining industry continues to evolve and innovate with new and efficient technologies.

Denk Liu
Denk Liu
Denk Liu is an honest person who always tells it like it is. He's also very objective, seeing the situation for what it is and not getting wrapped up in emotion. He's a regular guy - witty and smart but not pretentious. He loves playing video games and watching action movies in his free time.

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