Mining and The Environment

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In our days, mining for resources is inevitable. The resources we need are valuable in everyday life. Such resources mined up are coal, copper, gold, silver, and sand. However, mining poses environmental risks that can degrade the quality of soil and water, which can end up effecting us humans if not taken care of and many of the damages are irreversible once they have occurred.

History and Case Studies of Mining and the Effects on the Environment

Mines pose a threat to the environment. They can degrade soil and water quality if left untreated. The United States Environmental protection Agency (USEPA)'s Region 9 assessment of state data states that there are approximately 420,000 abandoned mines in the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada with 13,242 of them being considered "abandoned mines with potential environmental hazard" (, 2008).

Left behind are tailings, which are large piles of crushed rock left over when minerals have been extracted from rocks that once contained them. These tailings are then left prone to wind dispersion and water erosion. This wind dispersion occurs since the sand-like tailings are easily swept up by the atmosphere by wind and spread throughout the environment as dust particles. Figure 1 shows the wind erosion of a mine tailings pile being blow up into the air, creating dust. These tailings contain metal contaminants like arsenic, lead, and cadmium, which creates a problem for the environment and they can persist for decades due to the low pH levels and can cause problems in soil stabilization (, 2008).

As a result of this process, the mine sites "do not develop normal soil structure or support the establishment of a plant cover". Many mine sites have...

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...sues with environmental concerns with mining and smelting, the economic issue is one of them that tops the list. Something needs to be done to drive the cost of environmental control equipment down. Should this be how the equipment is manufactured differently, made more efficiently, or created with lower cost material.

Works Cited

Coil, D., McKittrick, E., and Higman, B. (2010, December 16). Acid Mine Drainage. Ground Truth Trekking. Retrieved February 12, 2011, from

Mine Tailings. (2008). The University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (SBRP). Retrieved February 12, 2011, from

Warhurst, A. (1999). Mining and the environment: case studies from the Americas. Ottawa, ON, Canada: International Development Research Centre.

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