Diatomaceous earth is a fossilized mineral made from ancient plankton that has solidified, creating a chalk-like substance that is used as an insecticide, absorbent agent, litter material, and filterer. Almost all of the earth is mined used open-pit mining techniques, where the earth is stripped away to reveal the deposits beneath. The raw diatomaceous material is then processed in various ways, depending on what it will be used for.
Diatomaceous earth Definition
Diatomaceous earth is a type of fossilized mineral that is mined and processed throughout the United Sates. It is most similar to chalk or limestone , and when processed resembles a power or grit that has a wide variety of uses. The earth gets its name from the fossil origins, which were originally small plankton-like plants and creatures from the oceans. It is composed of roughly a third of silicon and a fifth of calcium, with trace metals present.
Diatomaceous earth Uses
People use diatomaceous earth for a number of commercial products. One of its most common uses is as a natural filtering agent, filtering contaminants from water when the water is ran through the silt-like material.
The earth also has highly absorptive properties and is used to absorb liquids in scientific or factory settings, and in processed form is a primary component in many cat litters. It is also poisonous to small insects and is sold as an insecticide for gardens and as flea controlling agent for pets.
Diatomaceous earth Mining
Diatomaceous earth is mined almost exclusively through open-pit mining operations. This means that instead of digging a network of tunnels to access the deposits of diatomaceous earth, the earth is moved aside to expose the layers of earth underneath. This is useful to mining operations when the deposits are close to the surface and can be accessed without going through layers of hard rock. The overburden, or covering layers of earth, are stripped aside by machinery , and the earth is harvested, loaded into trucks, and carried away.
Diatomaceous earth Processing
Since diatomaceous earth has many uses, it can be processed in several different ways once it leaves the mine. The most simple forms of processing do nothing but grind the earth down into manageable pieces and then crush it to a meal or powder, which is then ready to be packaged and sold. More complicated methods to make the earth useful as an absorbent agent, including calcining, in which the earth is heated to purify it, and air classification to separate the finest particles for use.
Diatomaceous earth Considerations
There have been studies conducted on the possible detrimental effects of mining diatomaceous earth on the workers, including lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. While a precise link has not been established, there are higher instances of lung-related illness among diatomaceous earth miners than the norm, although the numbers have decreased and mining safety practices have become more common.