Mining is one of the oldest industries to extract solid materials and minerals necessary to produce many of the modern products in every day life. However, it has environmental impacts felt beyond mines and their vicinity.
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How Mining Methods Affect the Environment. There are many forms of mining depending on the resource being extracted. Each of these methods create types of pollution. Underground mining involves digging and tunneling to reach deep deposits like coal. Surface or strip mining removes surface vegetation and soil to exploit shallow deposits of coal.
Some resources can be mined using more than one method, as in the case of coal, gold and uranium. These methods can also have environmental impacts, such as deforestation, destruction of habitats, soil erosion, disruption of watershed, and pollution.
The three mining phases are exploration, production or extraction and post-mining land-use. All processes result in deforestation. Many of the minerals are found in forests or in protected areas in the tropics and Canadas Boreal Forest.
Coal is mined by strip and underground mining. Strip mining is more harmful as larger tracts of land are affected but is favored by the industry as it is cheaper. 40 of the worlds coal is obtained by strip mining.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration EIA in 2018, 63 of the U.S. coal production came from surface mines. Surface mining includes strip mining, mountaintop removal mining and open-pit mining.
Loss of forests and subsequent mining operations disturb the soil. Strip mining is particularly responsible for soil erosion as the topsoil is blasted to reach the shallow seams of coal in mountain top mining.
The displaced fertile topsoil is eroded or transported away, leaving the area unfit for growing any trees. It is this disturbance of soil which makes it difficult to grow trees.
According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT the effects of mining erosion can linger long after the mining has ended. Large swathes of land are impacted, beyond the immediate surroundings of the mine. Metallic dust from copper and nickel mines often persist for many decades and can even reach areas 2-3 miles away from the actual mines points out.
In order to use the resources at our disposal, we need to be able to get to them. This section introduces the different techniques used to extract or remove these resources.
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth from an orebody, lode, vein, seam, or reef, which forms the mineralized package of economic interest to the miner.
Ores recovered by mining include metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones, limestone, dimension stone, rock salt, potash, gravel, and clay. Mining is required to obtain any material that cannot be grown through agricultural processes, or created artificially in a laboratory or factory. Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of any non-renewable resource such as petroleum, natural gas, or even water.
Mining of stone and metal has been done since pre-historic times. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the land after the mine is closed.
The nature of mining processes creates a potential negative impact on the environment both during the mining operations and for years after the mine is closed. This impact has led most of the world8217s nations to adopt regulations designed to moderate the negative effects of mining operations. Safety has long been a concern as well, and modern practices have improved safety in mines significantly.
The process of mining from discovery of an ore body through extraction of minerals and finally to returning the land to its natural state consists of several distinct steps. The first is discovery of the ore body, which is carried out through prospecting or exploration to find and then define the extent, location and value of the ore body. This leads to a mathematical resource estimation to estimate the size and grade of the deposit.
This estimation is used to conduct a pre-feasibility study to determine the theoretical economics of the ore deposit. This identifies, early on, whether further investment in estimation and engineering studies is warranted and identifies key risks and areas for further work. The next step is to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the financial viability, the technical and financial risks, and the robustness of the project.
To gain access to the mineral deposit within an area it is often necessary to mine through or remove waste material which is not of immediate interest to the miner. The total movement of ore and waste constitutes the mining process. Often more waste than ore is mined during the life of a mine, depending on the nature and location of the ore body. Waste removal and placement is a major cost to the mining operator, so a detailed characterization of the waste material forms an essential part of the geological exploration program for a mining operation.
Once the analysis determines a given ore body is worth recovering, development begins to create access to the ore body. The mine buildings and processing plants are built, and any necessary equipment is obtained. The operation of the mine to recover the ore begins and continues as long as the company operating the mine finds it economical to do so. Once all the ore that the mine can produce profitably is recovered, reclamation begins to make the land used by the mine suitable for future use.
Mining techniques can be divided into two common excavation types surface mining and sub-surface underground mining. Today, surface mining is much more common, and produces, for example, 85 of minerals excluding petroleum and natural gas in the United States, including 98 of metallic ores.
The geosphere is the earth itself the rocks, minerals, and landforms of the surface and interior. Below the crust which varies in depth from about 5 km beneath the ocean floor to up to 70 km below the land surface, temperatures are high enough for deformation and a paste-like flow of elements.
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Dec 16, 2010nbsp018332By analyzing tiny olivine crystals in the once-molten rock that was hurled up from the Earths mantle the layer of solid but hot rock that flows below the planets crust Kelley discovered tell.
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The environmental damage caused by surface mining is related to the large amount of surface material that humans remove during mining operations. The environmental effects of surface mining include.
All surface mining techniques negatively affect the environment, though some methods are more damaging than others.
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