Exploration can take place in many forms, by both prospectors and exploration companies, and usually begins with research to select target areas. Once the targets are selected, geological mapping, as well as many types of geochemical and geophysical surveys, can take place. This type of activity, even in its simplest form, can lead to discoveries of the economic mineral deposits that society requires for much of the raw materials and manufactured products that we use every day. Exploration activity on a property rarely leads to a new mineral discovery. Discovery happens when something of value is found. Discoveries rely on good fieldwork, quality geoscience, investment, and planning to bring them to the development stage. New discoveries are crucial because our growing society increasingly consumes more manufactured products, and our known mineral deposits become depleted. Very few discovered mineral deposits become producing mines. At this stage permits, leases, and licenses are required and the project may be referred for environmental assessment.The mine development stage includes feasibility, geoscience, and engineering studies. If all of these outcomes are favorable and all approvals are in place, the company then decides if they will go ahead with the project. At this stage, the company raises money in order to begin construction and develop a mine. This is the most expensive phase of the mining cycle.The production phase includes extraction, milling, and processing of raw materials, such as coal, metals, industrial minerals, and aggregate. The length of time a mine is in production depends on the amount and quality of the mineral or metal in the deposit and profitability of the operation.

Mine site reclamation and protection of the environment start at the beginning of a project and continues after closure. Mines must have closure and reclamation plans and are required to post a bond for the estimated cost of reclamation. The reclamation plan and bond amount must be approved by the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environment. In many cases, mine site reclamation can add significant value to land in communities for recreational purposes and future development. Progressive reclamation is recommended during the entire life of the mine.