Mining is a fact of life, right? We need to find the materials under the earth’s surface in order to survive. While this may or may not be true, mining possesses some serious risks to the environment and to our overall health.
Mining Contaminates the Earth with Harmful Chemicals
Each country has their own rules about mining. In many countries mining for gold means using mercury. It helps extract the gold from the earth. Unfortunately the process contaminates the actual miners and the chemical stays in the earth. Mercury is extremely toxic and can cause neurological problems and death. Yet the increase in the value of gold means many countries are allowing its use.
Mining for coal, oil and natural gas also uses these same resources which then release gasses and pollutants and in turn destroy our atmosphere and cause acid rain.
Finally, lead and other harmful pollutants are released into the air during the mining process. These heavy metals and pollutants cause cancer, mental retardation and many other health problems.
Mining Destroys the Natural Landscape
Open up a newspaper any day of the week and chances are you’ll find an incident where mining or drilling has caused environmental devastation. Most recently an oil leak sprung in the Yellowstone River in Montana causing irreparable damage.
Mining also strips away the land. It causes erosion, mudslides and depletes our forests. Each tree that is cut down, and thousands are cut down in the name of mining, reduces the ability to clean the air. Thus greenhouse gasses build up and continue to cause global warming.
Animals are removed or chased from their natural landscape which can have lasting effects on the ecosystem and the environment. Because many materials are mined below the ocean’s surface mining also has a detrimental effect on our oceans which of course have an effect on everything from our food source to our weather.
Finally, many chemicals and mining by products are released into the soil and make their way into the water supply. These pollutants kill wildlife and they make their way into the water supply that humans depend on.
Between emissions from mining equipment, the destruction of land and the pollutants released during and from the mining process, mining is extremely harmful to the environment. And that’s without even mentioning the issues with the transportation and refining process involved after a material has been mined. You can get involved and help improve mining conditions in your country by contacting your local legislative representatives and by learning more about mining in your community and how it affects your environment.