The term is particularly used by scientists to denounce proponents of creationism, because creationists present long lists of quotes by scientists allegedly acknowledging their criticisms. To quote Theodosius Dobzhansky's famous 1973 essay Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution:Their [Creationists'] favorite sport is stringing together quotations, carefully and sometimes expertly taken out of context, to show that nothing is really established or agreed upon among evolutionists. Some of my colleagues and myself have been amused and amazed to read ourselves quoted in a way showing that we are really antievolutionists under the skin.
A website called Anointed-One.net has compiled dozens of quote mines under the heading "Quotes by Famous Evolutionists", and Talkorigins.org has a section titled "The Quote Mine Project" which discusses these quote mines in their original contexts. Also, Apologetics Press describes the following books/booklets of quote mines: (1) a 157-page 1977 book titled Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter, with almost 200 quotations from the writings of prominent evolutionists; (2) a 20-page 1984 booklet titled The Quote Book, with over 100 quotations; and (3) That Their Words May Be Used Against Them, described as "a massive, 487-page, hardback book containing quotations from the evolutionary literature on subjects that range from the Big Bang to the corrupt fruits of a life based on belief in evolution.....each quotation is accompanied by bibliographic documentation regarding author, source, date, etc.." In the evolution controversy, the anti-Darwinists are not the only ones who quote mine -- Pope John Paul II's statement that "evolution is more than just a hypothesis" is a well-known quote mine used by Darwinists.
Darwinism particularly lends itself to quote mining because: (1) many scientists themselves are skeptical of Darwinism but won't openly admit it; (2) many evolutionary concepts are so highly questionable that scientists find themselves playing the devil's advocate when arguing in support of them; and (3) there is great disagreement among scientists in regard to different versions of the theory of evolution, and so scientists are often very critical when discussing the versions that they disagree with -- this is especially true in regard to the conflict between phyletic gradualism and punctuated equilibrium..
Law is another field that lends itself to quote mining, because court documents are always citing precedents and other legal references. However, quote mining is less effective in law because the sources of the quotes are usually easy to find on the Internet or in law libraries. Here is what must be the Lost Dutchman Mine of quote mines in the field of law, from the Supreme Court case of Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598 (2001):
And petitioners’ fear of mischievous defendants only materializes in claims for equitable relief, for so long as the plaintiff has a cause of action for damages, a defendant’s change in conduct will not moot the case. (emphasis added)
Incredibly, some commenters on this blog have interpreted the above sentence as meaning that the Supreme Court meant -- among other things -- that a claim for nominal damages (typically $1 per plaintiff) is alone sufficient to prevent a case from being declared to be moot! This interpretation means that in any lawsuit where a claim for nominal damages may be made (and maybe some other lawsuits as well), the plaintiff(s) could positively prevent mootness just by claiming nominal damages! LOL Furthermore, the primary subject of the above sentence is equitable relief, not damages, and damages were not even an issue in the case. Talk about dictum!
Mining is an occupation, so I think that the term "quote mining" was coined because it implies making sort of an occupation out of finding quotes. I feel that "quote mining" is not necessarily a negative thing -- after all, we have all heard of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and people are always quoting famous and not-so-famous people. In the controversy over censorship of Confederate symbols, there are "quote mine" wars where, for example, racist quote mines of Confederates are countered by racist quote mines of Unionists ( Abraham Lincoln is a popular source, but William T. Sherman is a pretty good source, too).