|Environmental Handbook Volume II: Agriculture, Mining/Energy, Trade/Industry (GTZ/BMZ, 1995, 736 pages)|
|Mining and energy|
|37. Underground mining|
In sum, underground mining can be referred to as an activity with substantial impact on the environment. The consequences can be very detrimental to the environment, especially through the extraction of resources, alteration of the rock structure and groundwater regimen, pollution of the air, the effects of noise and dust, pollution of surface water and alteration and disruption of the landscape. Compared to surface mining, underground mining has modest surface area requirements, both for the winning of raw materials and for other industries. With the exception of leftover rubbish dumps, the area in question is only needed for as long as the deep mine remains in operation.
Among the most significant environmental effects of underground mining is its impact on the miners themselves, whose health and safety are quickly and seriously jeopardized, if the protective rules, regulations and measures are not systematically adhered to.
Finally, underground mining has social consequences, especially in connection with speculative forms of mining, e.g., for precious metals or gems.
Many environmental consequences can be moderated but not prevented. Extensive data is needed as a basis for assessing the environmental impacts and designing protective measures; the uncertainty levels are accordingly high. Even the preparatory activities (reconnaissance, prospection and exploration) necessitate good coordination between the relevant environmental impact assessments and their data requirements.
The stipulation, enforcement, monitoring and control of limit values and underground mining operations has, to a certain extent, evolved to exemplary levels. Direct application of limit-value enforcement and monitoring to other countries is only conditionally possible, since the basic prerequisites usually differ. Nevertheless, every attempt should be made to apply and meet standards designed to preclude detrimental effects on man and the environment. Probably the biggest problem from an environmental standpoint are the uncounted "informal" small-scale mining activities employing uncontrolled, inadequate, unsafe methods that also tend to be hazardous to the environment.
Proper and orderly mining operations require stringent supervision (routine measurements, data collection and monitored adherence to essential limit values). That, in turn, calls for competent executing agencies.