Pianeta Terra: la nostra amorevole dimora

Industrial Mining: Damaging Effects on the Planet and Our Health Part 1 of 3



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Mining activities involve the extraction of valuable minerals and other geological materials from the earth, and the mining industry is regarded as one of the major economic contributors to various countries. But unfortunately, mining is an inherently invasive process that can cause damage to landscapes much larger than the mining sites themselves. Unregulated mining has the potential to release harmful substances into the soil, air, and water. Environmental issues can include soil erosion and contamination, loss of biodiversity, and surface water pollution due to the use of chemicals in the mining process.

Coal mining also has a huge impact on local water resources, both on the surface and underground. Surface water can be contaminated through the discharge of mine drainage, while groundwater gets contaminated by filtration into aquifers. Coal mine drainage contains highly acidic water contaminated with the ions of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, cobalt, copper, and zinc. In bodies of water, these chemicals can be hazardous for both humans and aquatic wildlife.

In March 2020, a study was done in Australia to confirm the link between coal mining and poor air quality in nearby towns. Associate professor Gunther Paul, of James Cook University in Australia, reported that the scientists who performed the study looked at community-based air monitoring stations in Queensland and New South Wales, along with ten years of data from the national pollutant inventory. The information was used to analyze microscopic levels of dust in nearby areas caused by coal mining. The results revealed that as coal mining activities increased, levels of harmful dust particles, metals, and nitrogen oxides also increased.

Coal mines are among the greatest sources of anthropogenic methane emissions or coal mine methane (CMM). The production of coal releases methane that is trapped in coal seams and surrounding strata, and once a mine is closed it continues to release methane known as abandoned mine methane (AMM) for an extended period of time thereafter. An article published by Reuters in 2020, states, “Methane leaks from planned coal mines around the world could have a bigger climate impact than carbon emissions from U.S. coal plants.”

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