This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Part 1: Issue Description The issue is the conflict between opposing parties over mining. What is mining? Mining is the excavation of useful minerals that come from within the earth, usually found in ore bodies, veins, or coal seams. Mining can be carried out almost anywhere, from 4,000 m above sea level to 4,000 below. Mining can happen in a lot of different places, from tropic jungles to the Arctic. Some examples of valuable minerals that can be mined are coal, copper, silver, iron, gold, diamonds, etc. and everything that cannot be grown or artificially made. The valuable minerals go through quite a process to be separated from the tailings. Mining is very important in so many ways. It gives us access to minerals and material that we need. There are many different uses for many different types of minerals. The Steps of Mining: There are many different steps involved in mining. The first step of mining is prospecting an area to locate an ore. This involves physically going out into the field and searching for different types of minerals and fossils to give you an indication of where you might find an ore body. Next is the exploration of the area, which involves finding and determining the extent and value of the mineral-rich ore, through several different methods including hands-on field work, remote sensing, and drilling. There are four stages of mineral exploration: 1. Area Selection: the most important stage, it is important to choose an area that is possible to find ore deposits easily, cheaply and quickly. In this step, you have to know how ores are formed and likely places they would be formed in. Looking at maps and knowing where ores have been found previously helps in finding the location of more possible ores. 2. Target Generation: This stage involves investigation of the geology through maps, geophysics, and testing the surface and subsurface minerals of the area. Includes three distinct methods: geophysical methods, geochemical methods and remote sensing. 3. Resource Evaluation: This stage lets you know the quality and quantity of the mineral in the area. This is achieved mainly by drilling. 4. Reserve Definition: Converts an ore resource to a mineral reserve. Similar to resource evaluation, except a lot more detailed and thorough. 5. Profit Planning: This step involves planning out a mine to evaluate the economically recoverable portion of the deposit. You have to conduct a feasibility
study to decide whether you should or shouldn’t build a mine there. In these studies, you look at how much profit is going to be lost/gained in the long run, and how economically and environmentally feasible it would be to build the mine. 6. Mine Construction: This step is physically making the mine. You have to make it so there is access to an ore body. There are many different types of mines, including hard rock mines, in which you make tunnels and shafts going into rock to retrieve an ore, open-pit mines, which are used when the desired minerals are generally located near the top of the earth, underground coal mines, which are mines that go underground to a coal seam, borehole mining, in which holes are drilled into the ground in order to retrieve minerals, copper mines, gold mines, deepsea mines, mountaintop removal mining, etc. 7. Mining: This step is the actual excavation of minerals from the ground. This is achieved in many different ways, depending on what type of mine it is and what you want to take out of the ground. 8. Ecological Rebuilding: The reclamation of the mine site to make the land suitable for usage in the future. This means returning the land as much as you can to its former self, after all the mining is done. The land becomes degraded after it is mined, so it is important to restore it as much as possible. Issue Problems The problem of the issue is the impact of mining on the environment vs. the necessity of the minerals mined. Mining is very harsh on the environment. To justify just how bad some mining is, think about the fact that producing a single gold ring generates 20 tons of mine waste. And where does that waste go? Into the water, air, land, animals, and even into us. However, mining is a bare necessity. It gives us access to necessary minerals and material that we use constantly. This creates many issues, with the mining companies wanting to go forward with plans for mines, and some people strongly opposing it. Mining gives jobs and makes money, as well as giving us all the materials we need, so it is very good in that sense. It is very bad on the environmental side, though. We will describe later on just how bad mining is for the environment, and we will go into detail about the necessity of mining. Key players Mining Supporters: Includes mine employees, mining companies, investors, mining lobbyists, civilians in favour of mining, and politicians in favour of using the “current methods of mining”. Mining Companies: Mining companies support the current methods of mining for obvious reasons. Mining is how they turn a profit. They believe that the benefits of
mining [think money] far outweigh the disadvantages. They are willing to destroy the environment to extract the necessary minerals. Beliefs and Values: Mining companies believe that what they do is worth it. They don’t care about the environment; their sole value is profit. They believe that environmentalists are wrong, and that what they do is for the greater good. They think that economy outweighs the environment. They know that the things they are mining (for the most part) are necessities that are used in everyday life, so they think it is vital to keep mining and extracting those materials, even if it means risking the health of the planet. Mining Lobbyists: These people are hired by mining companies to lobby support for the mining industry. They persuade the public and members of government that mining is beneficial and necessary, while downplaying the cons of mining. This includes holding meetings and lectures, and giving speeches talking about their beliefs and values. These go strictly against the thoughts and beliefs of environmentalists against mining. They try to pursue people into thinking mining is good, because of the necessity of all of the material mined, as in jewelry and every day uses. Beliefs and Values: Mining lobbyists believe that the current methods of mining are the right, and only, ways to go. They will fight for the mining companies, convincing anyone who will listen that their company is right, and that the current methods of mining are safe, relatively eco-friendly, necessary, etc. They have a lot of the same beliefs as people in the mining companies. They look at mining as being necessary because of how much we use the minerals and materials extracted. Civilians: These are ordinary people who are in favour of the current methods of mining. In a way, we are all supporters of the current methods of mining. Despite how we feel about how mining is accomplished, we use its minerals all the time. For example, every time you turn on your television, you are utilizing 35 different minerals procured through mining. We sometimes don’t realize how much we use mined products. All the jewelry we own is mined, as well as the copper in wires, and a vast number of other things we use in our everyday lives. Beliefs and Values: Civilians who believe in the current methods of mining think it’s necessary to extract minerals. Those types of people are the type that listen to mining lobbyists and who have the same beliefs and values as them. Politicians: Mining is always a hot topic in politics. Platforms are built and broken on the issue. Politicians are forced to take a stance on the subject. They have to make decisions on whether they think the mines that are going to be built will be economical as well as environmentally-friendly. Mining is a pretty big issue in politics, and it can be a deciding factor in whether or not some people vote for them. Beliefs and Values: Politicians have to make up their minds about what they think is right as far as mining is concerned. Politicians who are for the current methods of mining have to explain to people their beliefs on why they think the current methods of mining
are better for everyone than worse. Their beliefs and values would be somewhat the same as mining lobbyists. Mine Employees: These people work for the mining companies. By working for the mining industry, they automatically support it. Mining creates a lot of job opportunities, even though they might not be the safest. Some people are very desperate and poor and will take whatever job they can get. These people generally think mining is necessary just so they can have a bit of money and some sense of job security. Beliefs and Values: Their beliefs and values are very similar to your ordinary civilian, except that they are influenced directly by the fact that they work for a mining company. Investors: These people invest their money in the mining industry. Beliefs and Values: Investors believe strongly in the economical strength of the mine/mining company they invest in. They value the profit margin of the company. The environment is second to their money. Mining Opposition: Includes Environmentalists, civilians against the current methods of mining, and politicians against the current methods of mining. Environmentalists: Environmentalists are people who are “concerned for the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment, such as the conservation of natural resources, prevention of pollution, and certain land use actions.” As such, they are opposed to the current methods of mining when they harm the environment. By definition, all people who oppose the current methods of mining are environmentalists. Beliefs and Values: They believe that the environment comes first, that the current methods of mining are wrong because they harm the environment, that there are more eco-friendly ways of mining to retrieve minerals, and that the public should be aware of the degradation of the environment caused by these methods of mining. These people are the backbone of the opposition to mining. They also frequently fight globalization [which involves mining to an extent], and its effects on indigenous peoples. The most effective environmentalists are organized into groups, such as the famous Greenpeace. Greenpeace is a perfect example of the power of environmentalists when they work together. Founded in 1971 in Vancouver, Greenpeace now has an official presence in 41 countries, has an estimated 2.8 million financial supporters, and is known worldwide as one of the most powerful environmental groups in existence. Its current set of priorities includes: Stopping climate change [global warming], preserving the oceans [whaling, among others], saving ancient forests, peace and nuclear disarmament, promoting sustainable agriculture [Mark Whittear], and eliminating toxic chemicals, such as the sulfide compounds leached into groundwater via Acid Mine Drainage. Environmentalists value, above all, the environment.
Civilians against the current methods of mining [Sub-group of ‘Environmentalists’]: These people are ordinary individuals who feel that the current methods of mining are wrong because of the way they harm the environment. They are separated into two main groups: Activists and Non-activists. Activists are civilians against mining who take action. For example, they might organize a protest against a new mine proposal that would destroy a vulnerable ecosystem. Non-activists are civilians against mining who take no action. They are aware of the problem, but they do nothing to prevent it. Everyone is this group is also, by definition, an Environmentalist. Beliefs and Values: These peoples’ beliefs and values are similar to those of Environmentalists. However, Non-activists don’t value/believe in taking action as much. Politicians against the current methods of mining [Sub-group of ‘Environmentalists’]: This group includes any politicians who take a stance against the current methods of mining. Because of the increasing public awareness of environmental issues, more and more politicians are siding against the current methods of mining. These politicians are usually organized into political parties, such as the Green Party of B.C. Everyone is this group is also, by definition, an Environmentalist. Beliefs and Values: They most likely [but not necessarily] believe in what they preach. They value both the environment, and the position they are trying to win.
Part 2: Arguments against Mining Mining: A Non-Sustainable Industry
Consistently, the mining industry has been statistically proven to be one of the most environmentally destructive industries on the planet. For example, in the Appalachia region, mountaintop coal removal destroyed, in just ten years, 1,208 miles of streams and 380,547 acres of forest. With far-reaching effects that damage the land, air, and water, in addition to the plants and animals that live there, the mining industry is an ecological disaster. The many different types of mines harm the environment in many different ways. In addition to their impact on the environment, mines are infamous for how hazardous they are. Since 1940, there have been over 7000 mining related deaths, and an astounding 488 000 injuries on-the-job, in the US alone. Pompous head executives of mining companies “claim” that they are being as environmentally-friendly as possible, but most of the time they are still doing things that harm the environment one way or another. It is impossible to eliminate all effects on the environment, but mining companies should be paying more attention to reducing the effect, since mining is so harsh on the environment. They should look at all different aspects (air, water, land, etc.), and plan a way of reducing for each section. If reduction is impossible, they should not go on with the mine. They should also keep in mind the effects of the mine even after operations within it stop. When it is not absolutely necessary to mine something, it should not be mined. After all, mining is non-renewable, so once we take out the minerals, they will never be there again. Environmental Impacts Unique to each Mine Type: Open Pit Mining: “A method of extracting rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit or burrow.” Most commonly used to extract "hard rock" for ores such as metal ores, copper, gold, iron, aluminum, and, most commonly, coal. These types of mines can only be used to remove minerals near the surface. Quarrying is a type of open-pit mine that extracts minerals for making buildings. In addition to the impacts stated in “General Impacts of mining on the environment”, open pit mines have one unique adverse environmental effect. It is the most obvious and severe effect on the environment caused by open pit mines: the removal of huge chunks of land, creating craters. In addition to being a huge eyesore, these chunks of land used to be the habitat of many different organisms. By destroying them, the mine endangers the animals, forcing the creatures in the area to relocate. A link in the ecosystem chain is chopped out, and the entire biodiversity of the area suffers. Also, when the mine is no longer in operation, the area can no longer be used for anything else. Deepsea Mining: This type of mining involves extraction of minerals from the seabed. Dredging is the most commonly used method in deepsea mining. A dredge [excavator] is used to scrape the minerals off the seabed. Dredging can easily disturb aquatic ecosystems, throwing the whole thing out of balance. Toxic elements are released from the sediments into the water. Deepsea mining is a relatively rare and new method of mining. Because of this, any long-term effects on the environment remain unknown. Coal Mining (including Strip Mining): The main environmental effects unique to coal mining are the methane gasses released (causing a greenhouse effect), the effects on water, and the dust produced. Because coal mining is such a massive industry all to
itself, it is extremely harmful to the environment due to its massive amount of emissions. Gasses released by coal mining, primarily methane, are among the leading contributors to global warming and climate change in general. Strip mining, most commonly used to mine coal, drastically alters the landscape (strip mining involves removing large strips of land [overburden] to expose minerals underneath). Not only that, but the coal, once it has been mined, further harmed the environment when it is burned as a fuel, which creates toxic fumes. Think of the awful smog of cities such as Los Angeles! In regards to safety, subsurface coal mines are known as some of the most dangerous mines to work in, with a high fatality rate. Also, you may not know it, but over 50% of the power used in the United States is generated through coal power plants, instead of the many alternative methods that could be used! Mountaintop Removal Mining: It seems the mining industry will never stop creating more and more disgusting, destructive and disturbing ways to steal from the Earth. This relatively new mining procedure involves clear-cutting the target area of all forest, then making liberal use of explosives to remove a maximum of 1000 vertical feet of mountain, to reach tiny coal veins underneath! The veins are excavated with a dragline excavator, which is basically a giant shovel attached to a giant crane. All that ‘waste rock’ is then shoveled into adjacent valleys, destroying every landscape, ecosystem, and animal beneath it. The EPA estimates that over 2200 square miles of forest will be destroyed via mountaintop removal mining by the year 2012. At the end of the day, all we are left with is a little bit more coal (less than 5% of the amount produced annually in the United States) and a whole lot of headless mountains. Or should I call them hills? Although mountaintop removal mines are required to “restore the area to a more naturally contoured shape”, waivers are frequently granted by the government, releasing the mining companies of this obligation. Not only is mountaintop removal mining harmful to the environment, it also causes economic depression in the county/area it occurs in. For example, in McDowell County, which turns out the most coal in all of West Virginia, approximately 37% of citizens live beneath the poverty line. This is because mountaintop removal mining requires only a small fraction of the number of workers alternative mining methods require. From 1990 to 1997, the mining industry lost a total of 10 000 jobs due to mountaintop removal mining, which is ironic because one of the only ‘advantages’ of mining, as touted by mining supporters, is the creation of jobs, helping the economy. It seems that as the mining industry “improves” itself, it increases the harm it causes to others. Placer Mining: Refers to mining which in current or ancient stream beds. Placer mining usually doesn’t require excavation. It is most commonly used to extract gold; the most well-known type of placer mining is gold panning. However, in recent years, the mining industry has, unsurprisingly, developed new, less eco-friendly ways of placer mining. Now, placer mines use large sluice boxes and trammels, which are contraptions that funnel water and ore in order to separate it from gold or gemstones. These machines require large amounts of water. The water collects a large amount of silt, which then pollutes the formerly clear-water streams in the area. To curb this, mines create unsightly ‘settling ponds’ of murky, silty water. Also, the waste rock left over after is has been
mined is often simply left at the mine site in piles. There are currently no laws forbidding this. Hard Rock Mining: This refers to different types of subsurface mining techniques used to take out hard minerals, such as zinc, copper, gold, nickel, and lead. Declines, shafts, and adits are used to get to the ore. Miners have to go in and blast away all the waste rock to get to the ore. This causes many various impacts on the environment, which will be talked about later. Artisanal Mining (includes in situ mining): Artisanal mining is terrible for the land, water, and people’s health. Toxic substances such as mercury and cyanide are used to extract gold from the land. This type of mining has a huge impact on the land. Trenches are made which change and scar the landscape permanently. The mercury used could potentially get into the bloodstream of smaller animals, and since we are at the top of the food chain, it can eventually get into our bloodstream as well. Artisanal mining is hazardous to health, fertility and the earth. Imagine if the mercury and cyanide were to accidentally spill! The damage done would be irreversible. This technique is often accompanied by widespread environmental degradation, both during operations and long after mining activities have ended. Each year, 500 to 800 tones of gold are produced, and 800-1000 tones of mercury are emitted! I don’t think that balances out very well. This is the cause of as much as 30% of the global anthropogenic mercury emissions. General Impacts of mining on the environment: Energy Consumption: Mining requires vast amounts of energy. The ore and rock has to be transported great distances by large vehicles, which require a large amount of energy in the form of gasoline. Underground mines need extensive hoisting systems to transport the minerals, which also require energy. Controlling the temperature of mines deep underground is very energy consuming as well. Pneumatic equipment, which is used a lot in the mining industry, also takes energy. Smelting ores and metal requires lots of energy. Air: Mining has a great effect on the quality of the air. Since mines need to blast through rock to get to an ore, dust may be produced in the process. Coal mines release methane, which contributes to environmental issues because it is a greenhouse gas. The methane is sometimes captured, but only where it is economically feasible to do so. Some cooling plants may release ozone-depleting substances, but the amount released is very small. Non-vegetated or uncapped tailings dams release dust, and when radioactive elements are found in the ore, radiation is emitted. Heavy metals, such as sulfur dioxide, may be polluted into the air by unsafe smelter operations with insufficient safeguards. The gold mining industry is one of the most destructive industries in the world, because of all of the toxins that are released into the air. Acid rain and smog are also some side-effects of mining. Every year, 142 million tons of sulfur dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere because of smelting. That’s 13% of total global emissions.
Water: Mines use a lot of water, though some of the water is reusable. Sulfidecontaining minerals, when oxidized through contact with air, via mining, form sulfuric acid. This, when combined with trace elements, negatively impacts groundwater. This happens from both surface and underground mines. Another way surface and underground water are affected is through tailings dams and waste rock heaps, because they are a source of acidic drainage water. Leftover chemical deposits from explosives are usually toxic, and increase the salinity of mine water, as well as contaminating it. Groundwater can be directly contaminated through “in situ” mining, in which a solvent seeps into un-mined rock, leaching minerals. In the extraction of minerals, some toxins (for example cyanide and mercury) are used that can permanently pollute the water, making it hard for fishers to find fish. Spills into oceans and lakes add toxic heavy metals and sulfuric acid into the environment, which can take ages to fix. Also, Acid Mine Drainage lowers the pH of the water, making it more acidic (see Acid Mine Drainage section). Land: There are many environmental concerns about the effects mining has on the land. Trees need to be cut down in order to have a mine built, and whole forests could be destroyed. Mining involves moving large quantities of rock, and in surface mining, overburden land impacts are immense. Overburden is the material that lies overtop of the desirable mineral deposits that must be removed before the mining process begins. Some mines make an effort to return the rock and land to its original appearance by returning the rock and overburden to the pit that they were taken out of. Copper mines sometimes extract ore that has very little copper actually in it (less than 1%). Almost all of the mined ore of non-ferrous metals becomes waste. A lot of areas are pock marked by thousands of small holes by people digging in search of precious minerals. Mining activities also may lead to erosion, which is dangerous and bad for the land. It destroys river banks, and changes how the river flows, where it flows, what lives in it, etc. Toxins used in the extraction of minerals (for example cyanide and byproducts like mercury) can permanently pollute the land, which makes people not able to farm in certain places. Open-pit mining leaves behind large craters that can be seen from outer-space. Ecosystem Damage: Mines are highly damaging to the ecosystems surrounding them. Many different types of mines affect many different types of ecosystems. For example, deep-sea mines are at high risk of eliminating rare and potentially valuable organisms. Mining destroys animal habitats and ecosystems. Pits that mines create could have been home to some animals. Also, the activity that surrounds the mine, including people movement, explosions, road construction, transportation of the goods, the sounds made, etc. are harmful to the ecosystems and will change the way the animals have to live, because they will have to find a new way to cope with the mine and live around it. Spills of deadly substances obviously have a very negative effect on animals and ecosystems in general. Many of the toxins and tailings that are discharged from the mines can disrupt and disturb the way animals live, and their health. Mining can completely destroy ecosystems by adding or taking out something from the animals’ everyday lives, therefore throwing the whole thing out of balance.
Health and Safety: Mining can be very safe, but often it is extremely dangerous. Underground mining is usually more unsafe than surface because of the poor ventilation and visibility, as well as the rock fall hazards. The biggest health risks are from dust, which can cause breathing problems. One example would be silicosis, which is when silica found in the rock gets into your lungs, and rip them apart. The silica gets you’re your lungs when you blast the rock away to find the ore inside, and little fragments of silica arise as dust, which you then breathe in. Another health issue is from exposure to radiation. People below poverty line in third-world countries are affected by mining. If the mining contaminates their fresh water supply, they will have to walk for miles to find more water. Acid Mine Drainage: Acid mine drainage (AMD), or acid rock drainage (ARD), is when the pH of water is lowered and made more acidic. This usually happens in abandoned subsurface mines. The reason is because subsurface mines, when operational, have to keep pumping the water out of the mine. Once abandoned, however, the pumping stops and the mine floods. This flood is the initial step of AMD. Acidity is generated when metal sulfides are oxidized after being exposed to air and water. Bacteria and archaea decompose the metal ions faster. These microbes are found naturally in the rock, but their numbers are usually low due to limited oxygen and water. However, once they are in an environment with an abundance of water and oxygen, they flourish. Acidophiles are extremophiles that favor the low pH levels of abandoned mines (low pH caused by AMD). When the ore is a sulfide or pyrite, the mine has a better chance of generating highly acidic discharges. Chalcopyrite (the most commonly mined ore of copper) occurs with a range of other sulfides, so copper mines are highly susceptible for AMD. The water gets very acidic, which is unhealthy for the land and all the underwater creatures that it might come in contact with. Mines try to neutralize the water again by adding limestone chips, but they sometimes form a layer of calcium sulfate, which blinds the material and stops any further neutralization. Also, they use a method called Constructed Wetlands to try to neutralize the pH, but this is time-consuming and not enough to deal with heavily polluted discharge. Constructed wetlands use the products of bacterial processes to stabilize the pH, but said products are unstable when exposed to oxygen. Though mining companies try to counteract AMD, they aren’t having that much success. Why, then, should we continue having big mines if they are just going to cause more AMD? Evidently, the current methods of mining are very harsh on the environment. To justify just how bad some types of mining are, think about the fact that producing a single gold ring generates 20 tones of mine waste. And where does that waste go? Into the water, air, land, animals, and even into us. The Earth is a special place in which many metals and other materials co-exist. These materials are vital to the well-being of the earth itself, but greedy mining companies insist on mining the hell out of an area to steal away the minerals, even if they are unnecessary, such as diamonds.
Part 3: Arguments for Mining Mining: An Industrial Necessity We need mining. We could not survive without it. It is absolutely necessary for mines to continue as they are now, for the economic value. Man has come into the age of technology, and mines are great because they are keeping up with the times. Since we have the technology and ability to create mines, why shouldn’t we take advantage of it? We should be able to reap the benefits of mining, and enjoy all aspects of the minerals we get out. Without mining we would not have access to many important minerals to do all the things we need them for. Without mined minerals, we wouldn’t be able to survive. We would have no lights, no cars, no nothing. There are so many uses for the minerals mined, it would be impossible to list them all. Unfortunately, in order to mine these necessary minerals fast enough to keep up with the growing world demand, it is necessary for the mining industry to use methods that temporarily disrupt the environment. Even if it weren’t necessary for us to mine so efficiently, the alternative methods are not yet viable options for mining companies. Rest assured that the industry is ready and waiting for more eco-friendly methods of mining, and that we are actively participating in the field of mining research. Short list of some of the minerals used extensively in modern society: Coal: Coal is used to run and heat a lot of devices, as well as generate electricity (50% of all electricity in the US). It is used in insecticides, fungicides, paint thinner, batteries, disinfectant, medicines, baking powder, TNT explosives, etc. Clearly, coal is a very essential product. It is crucial to mine it so there is always enough for new products and devices. Gold: Gold is used extensively in electronic products and equipment because of its conductivity, malleability, and resistance to corrosion. These products include such critical devices as telephones, cellular phones, home appliances, computers, etc. Due to its extraordinarily high reflective powers, spacecrafts and satellites rely on gold as a shield against solar radiation. Gold is also used in medical research a lot because it is biologically inactive. Gold is used in the direct treatment of arthritis and other diseases. It is obvious that we need to keep mining gold for all these reasons. Plus, gold is used to make nice shiny rings, which are very pleasing and attractive. Copper: Copper is used in building computer chips and circuits, as well as in wires because of its conductibility. Without copper being mined, you can just say goodbye to electricity all together! Copper is also used in making pennies, as well as in research for health. Copper might even be a possible cure for cancer! When the isotope Copper-67 is injected to the body, it gives off radiation to the cancerous cells, killing them. Obviously copper is very important, and imperative to the overall wellbeing and vitality of humankind.
Silver: Cutlery and tableware are often made from silver. Silver is desired for jewelry because of its artistic beauty. Silver is very diverse; it is beautiful, strong, sensitive to light, malleable, ductile, conductible, reflective, and unaffected by extreme temperature changes. Permanent Ecological Damage? Yeah, Right: You may not know it, but many of the claims made by environmentalists tell only halftruths. We here in the mining industry like to tell it straight up, so I’m not going to deny the undeniable: mining does harms the environment. However, the environmentalists fail to mention one key concept: the effects on the environment are not permanent! Many of the effects are short term. Admittedly, a very seldom number of environmental effects is long term; even these will pass with time. Thanks in part to efforts made by the mining industry itself, those long term effects are being corrected even faster! As for those shortterm effects, we make it a point to rectify as many of them as possible as soon as possible, by rehabilitation. Rehabilitated sites are reverted to their natural state. They can also be reverted to agriculture, forestry and wildlife habitat. Since the efforts of industry and government at the beginning of the 1990’s, work to rehabilitate mining sites has significantly increased. Here are some examples of mine rehabilitation: Rehabilitation/environmental effect clean-up: Open Pit Mining: One of the most unfortunate necessities in mining is the need to create large, unsightly craters and holes in the Earth as part of open pit mining. As such, we, the mining industry, make it our personal prerogative to completely rehabilitate as many open pit mines as quickly as possible. Some even become more beautiful that they were; an example of this is the Golden Cross gold mine in New Zealand. Once an average piece of land, it was officially opened in 1895, and closed down in 1920, leaving behind an ugly eyesore. However, thanks to the tremendous effort on behalf of the mining company, the area became even more beautiful than it had previously been. It now contains a beautiful crystal-clear lake. All of the dirt has been re-planted with lush green grass, and new trees are growing. Some administrative buildings from the mine were even kept for educational use. This example clearly shows the true power of rehabilitation efforts. Mining Act: This act is focused on the reclamation and rehabilitation of mines. The Act requires companies to have a rehabilitation plan submitted and approved for mining sites in operation. This is a great step in ensuring the well-being of the land and ecosystem. The “Guidelines for Preparing a Mining Site Rehabilitation Plan and General Mining Site Rehabilitation Requirements” specify the requirements of the rehabilitation sites, the contents of the plan set out by mining companies, and the steps leading to the approval of the plan. The Mining Rehabilitation Guide is the guide designed to help mining companies draw up a rehabilitation plan. It mainly deals with the main features of the plan, like its structure and technical content, as well as general rehabilitation requirements. Unfortunately, in the past, nobody noticed that tailing deposits were as harmful as they are. Because of that, the government has invested $20 million into the
rehabilitation of 11 sites. The Act is also focused on rehabilitating abandoned mines, since they recognize the issues regarding them. So it’s not like they are only focused on their own mines and not caring about previous ones, they care about all the mines and want to restore them so they don’t further harm the environment. Acid Mine Drainage: Acid mine drainage has a pretty big effect on the environment, and it is probably the biggest mining issue. However, it’s not like nobody’s doing anything about it. The Mine Environment Neutral Drainage (MEND) program in Canada is working to reduce the effects of acid rock drainage. There are a few methods that are being taken to get the pH of the water close to 7 again. One method is carbonate neutralization, in which limestone chips are introduced into sites, neutralizing the water. Another method is ion exchange, in which the ion exchangers would remove potentially toxic heavy metals from mine runoff, as well as making money from it. This solution isn’t being used very often, because some people say the current technology is not built to effectively deal with the large amounts of mine discharge, but at least they are trying! Constructed wetlands work very well in raising the pH, and they are also cost-effective. Bacteria and archaea work with wetland plants to filter out heavy metals and raise pH. When time and money are put into them, the wetlands can become very beautiful indeed. So mining companies know the problem is there, they will accept that, and they are doing what they can to reverse it. Sustainable Mining: Sustainable mining is an effective way to reduce the impact of mining on the environment. It is a huge step towards becoming more environmentally and ecologically-friendly. Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) is an initiative set forth by the Mining Association of Canada with the sole purpose of creating more sustainable mines. They will meet society’s needs for minerals and metals, while demonstrating responsibility to social, economic and environmental issues. They demonstrate these traits through exploring, discovering, developing, producing, distributing and recycling the products. They believe in committing to sustainable development and contributing to a thriving economy. TSM outlines that mining companies should keep contributing to the protection of the employees, communities, customers and the natural environment. They will achieve their goals by: Promoting the safe and environmentally-friendly production, use and recycling of metals and minerals, minimizing effects on the environment through all stages of the mine’s development, from exploration to closure, working with communities about the issues of abandoned mines, and using new technology and innovations to practice continuous improvement. Mining: An Economic Necessity The mining industry is a major contributor to the economy in two ways: it generates a large portion of the money flowing into and out of the area it’s located in, and it is a source of numerous jobs. In any area that has a mine, the largest commercial source of income to the government (via corporate income taxes on the mining company) is probably going to be the mine. Mines also “fund” the area by keeping money in the local economy, through wages, and bringing more money from other areas in. The jobs created by mines are also very important to the economy. For example, in the US, the mining
industry employs approximately 675 000 people. In Canada, it accounts for 3% of all full-time jobs in the country. That’s a lot! It’s no wonder the mining industry is considered one of the leading employers in the country, if not the entire planet! Not only that, but the median pay of mine employees with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is $85 000! Debunking the myth: Mines are dangerous There is a long-standing association between mines and danger in the workplace. While it is true that mines used to be dangerous, they no longer are. Consider these statistics: Deaths and Injuries for All Mining (US) Average Annual Average Annual Year Deaths Injuries 1936-1940 1,546 81,342 1941-1945 1,592 82,825 1946-1950 1,054 63,367 1951-1955 690 38,510 1956-1960 550 28,805 1961-1965 449 23,204 1966-1970 426 22,435 1971-1975 322 33,963 1976-1980 254 41,220 1981-1985 174 24,290 1986-1990 122 27,524 1991-1999 93 21,351 As you can see, we here at the mining industry have been working hard to improve the safety of our mines. Mining deaths have decreased constantly, and continue to do so. We continually introduce newer, safer, more dependable machines to aid our workers and ensure their safety. One example is the new 3D laser scanners being used at almost every new mine nowadays. With this new scanner, surveyors can survey areas from a distance without having to walk across large, possibly dangerous areas. Also, we ensure that our workers go through at least 40 hours of basic safety training, and an additional eight hours every year to keep sharp. Alternative methods-are they truly viable? The fact of the matter is that at the present time, the need for minerals is too great to rely on slower alternative methods. There really is no option; we need those minerals.
In conclusion, mining is vital. It gives us the materials we need to build new technology. With this mined material, we can survive in a place that is comfortable and
technologically advanced. Some alterations to the environment may come with mining, but mining companies feel that the benefits outweigh the negative effects. Some people (environmentalists) try to end or slow down the mining industry, which would be a very unwise mistake. Without mining we would be nowhere, we would be reduced to living like we did back in the Stone Age. Mining creates jobs, a large amount of wealth, and everything we need to steer mankind into a more technological era. We are fortunate to be living at the start of the 21st century, with all the benefits of modern science and technology. We can do a lot more things, things that people years ago would only dream of. Humans now live longer, healthier and more prosperous than ever before. So why not take advantage of technology? We are so wealthy and healthy because of the Earth, because it is giving us all the materials we need to produce vital and interesting new things. We should take advantage of it and mine whatever we need.
Part 4: Possible Solution-Sustainable Mining
Objective: To decrease negative impact on the environment without significantly disrupting the supply of minerals. We believe this objective can be attained through a method of mining known as “sustainable mining”. This method differs from traditional mining methods in several key ways. Sustainable mining is an effective way to reduce the impact of mining on the environment. It is a huge step towards becoming more environmentally and ecologicallyfriendly. Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) is an initiative set forth by the Mining Association of Canada with the sole purpose of creating more sustainable mines. They will meet society’s needs for minerals and metals, while demonstrating responsibility to social, economic and environmental issues. They demonstrate these traits through exploring, discovering, developing, producing, distributing and recycling the products. They believe in committing to sustainable development and contributing to a thriving economy. TSM outlines that mining companies should keep contributing to the protection of the employees, communities, customers and the natural environment. They will achieve their goals by: Promoting the safe and environmentally-friendly production, use and recycling of metals and minerals, minimizing effects on the environment through all stages of the mine’s development, from exploration to closure, working with communities about the issues of abandoned mines, and using new technology and innovations to practice continuous improvement. One of the chief problems of sustainable mining is that the mining companies simply don’t have enough money to implement sustainable mining without outside financial assistance. To solve this problem, we suggest a government grant to any mining company that signs a contract stating that it will use the grant to implement sustainable mining practices. Also, the government could tax non-sustainable mines extra, as encouragement. However, to achieve a true solution, one other step must me taken. All non-essential mining must be reduced in size to the absolute minimum possible. Mining of minerals used mostly for trivial purposes, such as gold, is not necessary (although gold is necessary for some applications), and serves only to harm the environment. The economic downfall would not be too great, because the minerals themselves would become more valuable due to rarity. As for the treatment of abandoned mine sites that contaminate the environment, there are several different treatments for the different types of pollution. Acid Mine Drainage: Acid mine drainage is currently treatable with several different chemicals that neutralize the acid: calcium carbonate, calcium hydroxide, calcium oxide, sodium carbonate, sodium hydroxide, and anhydrous ammonia. However, in some mines, such as Britannia Beach, the AMD is occurring so far below sea level that it can’t be pumped to treatment stations for neutralization; there is no current solution to this problem. Tailings: The disposal of tailings has always been difficult. In the past, they have been disposed in numerous ways, almost none of them environmentally friendly: stored in
ponds, dumped into rivers, dumped into oceans, etc. However, there are two more ecofriendly and less unsightly methods that can be used. The first is disposal into underground caverns or voids left from mines. This method is good because it leeches fewer minerals into the water table, because it reduces the risk of the cavern collapsing, and because it hides the ugly tailings from view. The other method is depositing tailings into abandoned open pit mines. The main advantages of this method are that it gets rid of the sight of the tailings, and fills up the hole left from the open pit mine. Air pollution: Unfortunately, there is little we can do about pollution already in the atmosphere. All we can do is prevent more from getting into it. Land Pollution: Land pollution can be rectified through standard reclamation efforts; however it must be made mandatory to reclaim abandoned mines (many mines currently aren’t forced to). Water Pollution: The majority of water pollution is AMD, so can be treated through neutralization. Other acidic chemicals in the water can also be treated by being pumped to treatment plants.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.