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5 innovations that appeared due to mining

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Plato. The phrase of the philosopher seems to fit very well when it comes to innovation in mining. “Mineral extraction is an ancient activity. No wonder that, from it, there were several inventions that are now essential for mankind,” says Vale executive manager of Technology and Innovation, Luiz Mello. Learn more about some of these inventions below:

1Steam engine

The year was 1710. At the time, coal and tin mines flooded frequently in the United Kingdom, bringing losses to the mining activity. Neither hand pumps used by the fire department, nor the prototype machines created so far could solve the problem. This is where the machines repairman Thomas Newcomen appears, designing a machine capable of raising water and heavy loads in coal mines: the steam machine (or engine). Later, Newcomen’s invention was a base for the creation of another essential device for the evolution of mankind. But that's another story that you will see below.

2Condensation chamber

Newcomen’s creation was primordial for the society. But it was only in 1777 that the most important steam engine was created. The machines repairman’s invention took a long time to heat steam and fuel in the mines. Then the Scottish instrument manufacturer James Watt perfected Newcomen’s invention, creating the condensation chamber. The device considerably reduced heat losses and became the basic tool to move boats, machines in the textile industry, as well as smelters and coal mines. From this enterprise, the so-called Industrial Revolution started. The condensation chamber is currently used in the engines of all transport vehicles.


This is a great invention of mining. Thanks to James Watts’s creation, the first locomotives appeared. All of them worked with the steam engine improved by the Scotchman “In 1784, James Watt, with the merchant Matthew Boulton, patented the steam locomotive, which first purpose was to transport ores,” says Luiz Mello. In Brazil, they were called Maria-Fumaça, (Smoke-Mary) because, when in movement, they produces a thick steam cloud.

4Safety lamp

One of the main challenges in ore extraction was the inadequate lighting. The lack of light caused health problems in the eyes of miners and hindered their work. Tools used for lighting in the mines also had a safety risk, because they involved flames of some sort that, when in contact with flammable gases, could cause an explosion. From this need, the safety lamp was created for use in mining. The device has its heat thoroughly distributed and the flame is protected, preventing temperature rise that ignites the gas and the material particles, such as coal. Now the invention is used in many other environments other than mining.


Do you know the dynamite currently used to implode buildings and other constructions? Well, it appeared and was first used in mining, as an explosive to break rocks.It was created by Alfred Nobel, in Germany, who patented it as safety powder for explosion, in 1867. Dynamite is a great advance to safety in mining, since, before its invention, an explosive nitroglycerine was used, a liquid that would detonate too easily because it was highly sensitive to any movement.

In many lists of innovative companies in the world, we find at least one that is currently a former mining company. That evidences how the ore extraction activity is important for innovation. And it also shows that, if a mining company have innovation in its DNA, it will be strong in the market, even if its mining activity ceases to exist someday."

Luiz Mello, executive manager of Technology and Innovation of Vale


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5 innovations that appeared due to mining