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Surface mining techniques include: open-pit mining, area strip mining, contour strip mining and hydraulic mining. Open-pit mining involves digging a large, terraced hole in the ground in order to remove a near-surface ore body. This technique is used in copper ore mines in Arizona and Utah and iron ore mines in Minnesota.

Area strip mining is used in relatively flat areas. The overburden of soil and rock is removed from a large trench in order to expose the ore body. After the minerals are removed, the old trench is filled and a new trench is dug. This process is repeated until the available ore is exhausted. Contour strip mining is a similar technique except that it is used on hilly or mountainous terrains. A series of terraces are cut into the side of a slope, with the overburden from each new terrace being dumped into the old one below.