Mineral extraction, mining, the removal of geological materials from the earth. Since before written history, mankind has removed minerals and ores from the earth. From early copper tools and weapons, to tungsten and titanium, man has found in the earth what cannot be grown in its dirt.
In early times mines were on or near the surface of the earth, as sufficient technology was not available to delve deep within the earth. Modern mining suffers from no such lack of technology. The deepest mine in use today, Tautuano Deep Shaft No. 3, a gold mine in South Africa reaches 2.4 miles into the earth’s crust. (infomine.com)
Regardless of the depth or breadth of mining operations, they have always had a physical effect on our environment. People often do not think of the unintended consequences of parts of our lives that are taken for granted. For example, rock salt, in the context of mining seems harmless. No toxic chemicals are needed to separate it from ore, it is mined in its pure form. However in the winter of 1993-94 a salt mine in Retsof, NY collapsed, an event that to this day has not been fully explained to the public. Many families were forced to move from their homes, as I experienced firsthand, and all due to our use of a simple mineral compound to melt snow.
Mining operations on asteroids have sparked curiosity in certain communities of the intellectually elite, but maybe the answer is not a new source of minerals, but new ways to solve problems without the unthinking harvest of resources.