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(114,904 posts)
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 02:07 PM Aug 2016

Mining’s permanent pollution

The environmental damage caused by mining often can’t be undone. And companies are trying hard to convince us otherwise.

The global mining industry spends tens of millions of dollars each year trying to convince us that it is “sustainable” and an indispensable part of the global economy, both now and in the future. There’s even an initiative to demonstrate mining’s ability to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The truth is that mining presents major problems for development; including one that is not well-known outside mining-nerd circles: Pollution of ground and surface water “in perpetuity,” i.e. forever.

This is a globally pervasive and enormously costly problem. And the mining industry’s unwillingness to comprehensively address it undercuts nearly everything the industry says about “sustainability.” For developing countries, this permanent pollution represents an unresolvable financial burden that will drain away precious resources needed to address poverty and development.

A quick geology lesson: the mining of hard rock minerals such as gold, silver and copper often exposes other rocks known as sulfides. This exposure causes the rock to produce sulfuric acid that drains into the surface and ground water near mine sites. The acid generation process continues for thousands of years (i.e. “in perpetuity”). Rivers in Spain are still contaminated today by acid that began generation during Roman mining 2000 years ago. Once this contamination begins, it can’t effectively be stopped, only neutralized through the continual chemical treatment of the water. Water treatment of this type is extremely expensive; costing $67 billion per year in the US alone.

For communities around the world, especially rural agricultural communities in developing countries, water is the essential resource that makes their lives and livelihoods possible. Women in particular suffer from the effects of contaminated water. No amount of fancy industry PR or high-sounding principles can make mining “sustainable” if mines are generating pollution that will permanently destroy communities’ access to this life-sustaining necessity. To provide a graphic depiction of the risks communities face, Oxfam is finalizing a mapping of rural agricultural areas in Honduras that are potentially impacted by mining-contaminated water.



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Mining’s permanent pollution (Original Post) cali Aug 2016 OP
That is factually correct. MineralMan Aug 2016 #1
Are you kidding? Did you read the article? It specifically addresses that issue. cali Aug 2016 #2
Of course many of us care. I do, as well. MineralMan Aug 2016 #5
Plus infinity ismnotwasm Aug 2016 #4
Recycling of metals does reduce demand to some degree. MineralMan Aug 2016 #6
The mine in my home town is a disaster. yortsed snacilbuper Aug 2016 #3
The acidic water Mendocino Aug 2016 #7
Some "communities around the world" we just can't stand beinig in the same room with. Eleanors38 Aug 2016 #8


(146,272 posts)
1. That is factually correct.
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 02:30 PM
Aug 2016

And yet, the demand for metals continues to grow. Mining is a population issue, really. As the population of the world grows, the demand for the metals used in the technology that also continues to grow increases. Industrialization has meant more and more reliance on the mining industry, and has increased demand and, thus, the inevitable pollution that mining produces.

What technological cultures and nations have done to mitigate the impact of mining on water resources is to move mining away from home and to third world nations. The demand for, say, copper, increases as technology increases. Here in the United States, we have rich sources of copper, but do not like the results of copper mining, for the reasons described in that article. So, we obtain our copper from African and other sources, and produce it as cheaply as possible. Since the pollution that mining causes does not affect us directly, we don't really care what it does to some nation thousands of miles away.

We really don't mine copper much in the USA any longer. The ore is there, certainly, but it's next to impossible to extract those metals here. We have legislated mining for essential metals out of existence in this country, pretty much. But, there are rich resources in other parts of the world, along with cheap labor, so we have simply shifted dirty mining somewhere else.

Here's the problem: we still need those metals. Recycling helps, but is not adequate to meet growing demands. So, the mining continues, and will continue. It is possible to conduct mining and refining operations without poisoning the environment, but the cost of such clean mining is prohibitive. So, we simply don't do it. We just move the mining offshore and ignore the damage where it occurs.

Africa, South America and Asia are our sources for metals today. Do we care about polluting those places? Apparently not.



(114,904 posts)
2. Are you kidding? Did you read the article? It specifically addresses that issue.
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 02:39 PM
Aug 2016

Furthermore, Renco's notorious pollution of La Oroya in Peru has been extensively covered. There is some limited good news about that case, but its overshadowed by the facts on the ground. Other cases of mining pollution in SA have also been detailed. Obviously, many of us damn well do care. And that Oxfam does is indisputable.


(146,272 posts)
5. Of course many of us care. I do, as well.
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 02:45 PM
Aug 2016

However, it continues. China is heavy with metal resources, and is heavily invested in mining them. Is it concerned with the pollution that mining causes? Not so much. But, we're more than happy to purchase the metals and products made from them.

Many people are concerned about this. Many others are not, which is my point. The demand for metals will be met. If mines in Peru are shut down, mining will move elsewhere, yet again.

How to stop it? Stop needing metals for manufacturing. Short of that, there will be mining somewhere, and it will be done as cheaply as possible. That's an inevitable fact, depressing as it is.


(41,970 posts)
4. Plus infinity
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 02:41 PM
Aug 2016

When considering any of the worlds energy problems and the subsequent solutions, first world countries too often don't consider the actual global implications if it's not in our backyard. From the lines the provides us electricity, to the components in the computers we use to argue politics, to the machinery it takes to create our energy efficient cars, or our bicycles, even what we wear.

In Seattle we are big on recycling--we take it for granted. I found our recently that New York City--much larger in area and population, is not. I was kind of shocked.


(146,272 posts)
6. Recycling of metals does reduce demand to some degree.
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 02:54 PM
Aug 2016

I'm afraid, though, that global demand is growing much faster than the amount of metals recovered through recycling. Then, too, metal recycling, itself, is a somewhat dirty, unpleasant industry. That industry, too, is being off-shored. I wrote all of the content for a website for one of the largest metal recyclers in the Twin Cities of MN, so I got a close look at that industry. Most of what they recover goes into containers and is shipped to China for processing. That processing is an undesirable industry in most places in the USA today. So, we're sending that away, too. Even the recycling location is grandfathered in at its current location. No new facility like it could be located there today. It's a noisy, smelly and dirty business, but an essential one.

This country is rapidly diminishing as an industrial nation. Industry is dirty. Nobody wants it nearby. So, we're sending it elsewhere. Down that road is something unpleasant, I'm afraid.

yortsed snacilbuper

(7,939 posts)
3. The mine in my home town is a disaster.
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 02:40 PM
Aug 2016

The Shannopin Coal Co was located in Greene County, Pennsylvania in the area of Bobtown which is in Dunkard Township. It roughly covered 8,200 acres (33 km2) and mined the Pittsburgh coal seam from 1926 until 1993. It closed in 1993 and is currently in bond forfeiture status with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Currently, the mine is filling with water which is resulting in an acid mine drainage discharge into Dunkard Creek. The mine pool in the Shannopin Mine is rising at over one foot per month.[1] In addition, the grounds are used as a dumping location by local people and seems to be an open location.




(18,318 posts)
8. Some "communities around the world" we just can't stand beinig in the same room with.
Fri Aug 19, 2016, 03:42 PM
Aug 2016

Not much love for hunting organizations, arms manufacturers, the "hook & bullet" press or the Dallas Safari Club (yes, Martha, THAT safari club). Yet these interests and many others were instrumental in stopping the Pebble Mine planned for Alaska. Many, here and elsewhere, are more concerned about the latest lion or zebra taken on an African safari, or what best comforts our urban sentiments.

We need to broaden our sense of community beyond the romantic and the rudimentary.

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