|Environmental Handbook Volume II: Agriculture, Mining/Energy, Trade/Industry (GTZ, 1995, 736 p.)|
|Mining and energy|
|36. Surface mining|
The principal regulations governing mining activities and pertinent environmental protection in Germany are the Bundesberggesetz BBergG [Federal mining law] dated August 13, 1980, and the UVP-VBergbau (ordinance on the environmental impact assessment of mining projects) dated July 13, 1990, the TA-Luft (Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control), the TA-L (Technical Instructions on Noise Abatement), the BImSchG (Federal Immission Control Act) and its various implementing provisions, as well as the respective mining regulations of the various states and their laws governing landscape, preservation of nature and excavation. In addition, the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (Association of German Engineers) has issued a number of guidelines dealing primarily with the relevant mechanical equipment.
Other industrialized countries like the USA, Canada and Great Britain have similar, in part more stringent, laws and regulations - including, for example, the U.S. "Clean Water Act" (1977) and the "Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act" (public law 95/87, 1977), with supplementary provisions drawn up by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) and by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A precommencement status quo study with thorough investigation of all matters relevant to the physical, biological and social environment provides a crucial basis for evaluating the environmental consequences of surface mines and planning recultivation measures; cf. environmental brief Reconnaissance, Prospection and Exploration of Geological Resources.
Growing awareness of the environment and the will to protect it is emerging in many parts of the world. To some extent, however, that new awareness has not yet found its expression in appropriate national laws. But even where laws protecting the environment already are in place, their enforcement is frequently neglected for a lack of control and monitoring options. The absence of an appropriate legal basis and/or of its proper implementation has serious large-scale and small-scale consequences for the environment, whereas mining regulations could be adopted with which to hold mine operators responsible for the consequences of their own mining activities. For small mines that are difficult to monitor, a pertinent recommendation was proposed at the UN-sponsored International Round Table on Mining and the Environment Congress in Berlin: recultivation guarantee funds can be set up, e.g., included in the concession fee. If the mine operator fails to rectify substantial environmental damage when he leaves his concession, financial reserves will be available to pay for recultivation. Otherwise, the withheld funds could be returned to the mine operator following satisfactory inspection of the properly recultivated areas.
Illegal mining is the biggest problem with regard to environmental destruction and recultivation. When large numbers of gem seekers and gold diggers intrude into and begin working an area in a completely uncontrolled manner - especially in developing countries - their activities are bound to cause areal destruction, often accompanied by pollution of the soil and rivers (with mercury and cyanide in the case of gold diggers). Legal measures have proven totally inadequate as a means of control, because the form of mining involved requires very little equipment, thus promoting a high level of mobility and, hence, good chances of evading control. Moreover, supervision becomes nearly impossible when large numbers of such people converge on an area and are willing to use force in defense of their interests. Consequently, damage to the physical and biological environment is accompanied by pronounced social tensions between the various interest groups.