Without mining, many economies would crash, and nations wouldn’t progress. It supplies the world’s need for coal, gold, ore, copper, nickel, platinum, iron, aluminum, diamond, silver, manganese, and many others.
Mining is the process of extracting minerals and metallic and non-metallic formations that concentrate naturally underground. In 2020, the global revenue for mining amounted to USD$686 billion.
The Importance Of Mining
As can be seen, mining is valuable. Without it, the world will have no cellphones, computers, roads, medical devices, automobiles, houses, and electricity. In the United States alone, every year, 40,630 pounds of new minerals must be provided for every person that uses products containing minerals.
The Environmental Impacts of Mining
On the flip side, the environmental impacts of mining cannot be discounted. Environmentalists often troop to the United Nations headquarters to air the call for better mining practices worldwide. The World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace regularly stage rallies to raise awareness of the negative impacts of mining and for governments of the world to take part in helping the planet heal before everything comes to a catastrophic end.
Here are some of the negative impacts of mining:
- Destroys agriculture
- Damages ecosystems
- Produces an abundance of rock wastes and sediments
- Pollutes the air
- Affects the quality of water
- Loss of biodiversity
- Noise pollution
Ways To Mitigate The Negative Impacts Of Mining
As mining cannot be stopped, the world must learn to live with it. But to do this, companies involved in mining and governments need to change and adapt new ways to lessen environmental impacts. Here are some ways they can do this:
- Utilize Mine Planning
Through strategic and tactical mine planning, companies can have the expertise of multidisciplinary engineers to map out plans and identify opportunities to optimize the life of a mine by considering areas such as dump construction, reshaping, and reclamation with the most minimal impact on the surrounding community.
With mine planning, the software can help analyze and calculate the waste handling aspect of mining activities. This way, proper practices can be applied to reduce the waste and redirect its flow to prevent affecting biodiversity and agriculture in the lands near it.
- Close Illegal And Unregulated Mines
Most mining activities in faraway places in many third-world countries affect the indigenous tribes. People living there peacefully couldn’t know any better. Many of them don’t have formal education and are very old. Only a few can make their voices heard.
Worse, mining companies prey on these tribes’ weaknesses and operate without permits, thinking they can get away with it. Only people in power who hold the interest of these tribes at heart and have the political will can utilize firm hands of steel to close these illegal operators.
- Firmer Legislation And Regulations
Each country has different mining legislations and regulations; sadly, most are old and outdated. Legislations must be aligned technologically so each nation in the world that thrives in mining can contribute to the planet’s healing. The application of clean technologies in the mining sector is measured using the EPS environmental policy stringency index developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The organization, with 38 member countries, promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of the people of the world through strict measures that each member country must abide by. Although the recommendations are not legally binding, member countries’ moral force and their leader’s political will are intensely questioned. This drives most nations to enforce their laws judiciously.
- Utilize Material Flow Analysis
Tracking the physical flow of resources from extraction, fabrication, production, use, recycling, and final disposal can help industry leaders develop new processes that are more efficient and sustainable.
Improving this process will address the impact of mining, especially on water which is one of the most affected resources. Creating a business model that emphasizes this will benefit the environment and the community surrounding the mines.
- Replenish The Environment
Once the products are extracted from a mining site, the remediation of the site is critical. Unfortunately, irresponsible miners will leave the site and close it down. But with proper laws and regulations, companies can be penalized and sanctioned for doing this.
In the United States, The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Superfund program, The Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act are laws responsible for pursuing companies that fail to act accordingly after a mine is closed down.
With these laws, the site can be restored to its original state by covering up mine entrances, replanting grass and trees, and testing surrounding water, soil, and air for contaminants. Any environmental damage must be restored, injuries compensated, and the community must be able to live their lives normally as before.
- Reinforce Soil Treatment
The high levels of metal in the mine will seep through the soil and adversely affect the surrounding community by destroying crops, harming the animals, and affecting the community’s economic stability. Typically, contaminated soil is relocated to repositories, but as this is very costly, some companies intentionally ignore this.
Stabilizing the metals in the soil is vital for the surrounding communities, so this shouldn’t be skipped. Treating the ground with bactericide to stop the growth of bacteria and promote the oxidation of pyrite and the accompanying formation of sulfuric acid is essential to keep the soil healthy and viable for future use.
- Undertake Water Treatment
Mines should have a nearby water treatment facility to ensure that the community’s water supply remains potable and clean. The active treatment of water by adding a neutralizing agent like lime to ensure that dissolved metals precipitate from the water is crucial.
Large mining companies can undoubtedly have a water treatment facility before starting their operation. Small mining companies that can’t build this must first show that they can commit to this aspect of mining operation because this is essential to the health of the community around the site. If they need to take out huge loans to finance this, they must do so because this isn’t something they can skip.
Mining affects a considerable portion of the lives of many people. But to reduce the effects of mining on the environment, mining companies and governments must do their best to mitigate the harmful impacts on the planet. Companies must utilize mine planning and protect the surrounding community. Meanwhile, government leaders must enforce strict measures, adhere to international recommendations, and live up to their commitment to uphold the rights of the people they govern.