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AP Enviro



Unit 5

5.9 Impacts of Mining

2 min readmay 1, 2020

Mark Little

AP Environmental Science ♻️

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Mining is the extraction or removal of minerals or material that is considered to be valuable and useful. Mining materials are used to obtain construction materials for roads, to generate electricity, and many other items. Mining is extremely important to the economy for many states and countries. As the easiest to access mining ore is removed, the continued removal of ore tends to require more resources and increase the environmental impact of mining, including more air pollution from the process.


Surface mining is the process of removing the soil and rocks to remove the mineral or ore.  Surface mining is often used when there is very little ore in the rock and a lot of rock needs to be processed to obtain the ore.  The rock and soil removed over the ore is called overburden. There are three types of surface mining: open pit mining, strip mining and mountaintop removal.  Open pit mining is used when you have to dig deeper for the ore. Strip mining is used when the ore is closer to the surface. Mountaintop removal is used in coal mining in Appalachian mountains. It is a type of strip mining that removes the top of a mountain and pushes the waste into surrounding valleys.  Surface mining causes a lot of damage to vegetation because most of it is removed and therefore the lands are very prone to erosion. 

Open Pit Mining


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Strip Mining Coal


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Mountain Top Removal


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Underground Coal Mine


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Mining Waste

Mining waste is produced during the extraction of minerals or ore.  These waste products are called slag or more commonly tailings. Mining is an industry that is important for the economy for many states and has helped provide low cost fossil fuels for energy.  
For example, coal mining often destroys habitat and can contaminate ground and land water supplies. Coal mining produces a lot of dust and methane gas. There are many pollutants in the mine tailings including mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals.
As coal mining has become more difficult because the coal reserves are decreasing, more coal mining is done underground. This process is very expensive and very hazardous for the workers in the mine. 


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