Metal mining provides us with materials essential for modern life.
But mining also devastates communities, clean water and the environment.
Negative impacts of today’s metal mines
Massive landslide at the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah. Photo: Deseret News.
An open pit mine is the most common type of industrial metal mine.
Open pit mines create huge, permanent scars on the landscape. Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon mine southwest of Salt Lake City turned a mountain into a hole almost a kilometer deep and 4 kilometers wide.
Because the ore extracted from today’s mines is extremely low grade, they generate huge amounts of waste. The average gold ring generates more than 20 tons of waste. Read more here.
The problem of environmental pollution is a global concern as it affects the entire ecosystem. There is a cyclic revolution of pollutants from industrial waste or anthropogenic sources into the environment, farmlands, plants, livestock and subsequently humans through the food chain. Most of the toxic metal cases in Africa and other developing nations are a result of industrialization coupled with poor effluent disposal and management. Due to widespread mining activities in South Africa, pollution is a common site with devastating consequences on the health of animals and humans likewise. In recent years, talks on toxic metal pollution had taken center stage in most scientific symposiums as a serious health concern. Read more at the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Aglobal campaign to boycott what activists are calling “dirty gold” gained its 100th official follower three days before Valentine’s Day.
The pledge was launched in 2004 by the environmental group Earthworks, which has asked retail companies not to carry gold that was produced through environmentally and socially destructive mining practices. Eight of the ten largest jewelry retailers in the United States have now made the pledge, including Tiffany & Co., Target and Helzberg Diamonds. The No Dirty Gold campaign is anchored in its “golden rules,” a set of criteria encouraging the metal mining industry to respect human rights and the natural environment. Read the article in the Smithsonian Magazine.
Heavy Metal Pollution from Gold Mines: Environmental Effects and Bacterial Strategies for Resistance
Mining activities can lead to the generation of large quantities of heavy metal laden wastes which are released in an uncontrolled manner, causing widespread contamination of the ecosystem. Though some heavy metals classified as essential are important for normal life physiological processes, higher concentrations above stipulated levels have deleterious effects on human health and biota. Bacteria able to withstand high concentrations of these heavy metals are found in the environment as a result of various inherent biochemical, physiological, and/or genetic mechanisms.
Read more at at the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The Effects of Gold Mining on Newborn’s Health
A 31 page paper from Stanford researchers: https://web.stanford.edu/~santisap/Paper_mining_newborn_health.pdf
For decades, large mining corporations have used two loopholes in the Clean Water Act to dump massive amounts of toxic tailings and other waste into America’s most pristine streams, lakes, and wetlands.
These are the waters from which we drink, in which our children swim, and which support our fish and wildlife such as grizzly bears in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Reforming Hardrock Mining
The hardrock mining industry is the single largest source of toxic waste and one of the most destructive industries in the country. Today’s industrial-strength mining involves the blasting, excavating, and crushing of many thousands of acres of land and the use of huge quantities of toxic chemicals such as cyanide and sulfuric acid. The mines that produce our gold, silver, copper, and uranium are notorious for polluting adjacent streams, lakes, and groundwater with toxic by-products.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 40 percent of the watersheds in the western United States are contaminated by pollution from hard rock mines. Read more here.
Overview of Mining and its Impacts
Proposed mining projects vary according to the type of metals or materials to be extracted from the earth. The majority of proposed mining projects involve the extraction of ore deposits such as copper, nickel, cobalt, gold, silver, lead, zinc, molybdenum, and platinum. The environmental impacts of large-scale mining projects involving these metal ores are the subject of this Guidebook. The Guidebook does not discuss the mining of ores that are extracted using strip mining methods, including aluminum (bauxite), phosphate, and uranium. The Guidebook also does not discuss mining involving extraction of coal or aggregates, such as sand, gravel, and limestone.
Thanks to Brian Lucy and Stephanie Rinaldi for researching these resources. They are immediately impacted by the drilling in Buckingham County.
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