Mining operations: environmental effects on soil, water, communities and atmosphere
Mining operations: environmental
effects on soil, water, communities and atmosphere
Mineral Resource - Nonrenewable chemical element or compound in
solid form that is used by humans. Mineral resources are classified as metallic
(such as iron and tin) or nonmetallic (such as fossil fuels, sand and salt).
Philippine mineral resources include gold, copper, silver,
molybdenum, chromite, iron, lead, zinc, pyrite, ore, coal, sulfur, uranium, etc.
They are used in the automobile, housing and other heavy industries. It is one
of the country's dollar-earning industry.
Most of the mineral resources are located in mountainous areas,
near river systems that support lowland communities and coastal areas. The most
common type of mining operation used in the country is the open-pit mining.
Extraction of gold, copper and ore, among others
MINING OPERATIONS: ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS ON LAND/SOIL, WATER,
COMMUNITIES AND ATMOSPHERE
Effects on land/soil
· Mining operations
necessitate the removal of green vegetation and the dumping of waste soil. Left
alone, mountains will lose their natural barriers against heavy rains with
cascading flood waters eroding the top soil, making the surrounding lands
ill-suited for crops and trees, rendering them unproductive and lowlands will be
vulnerable to flash floods.
· Large areas may be
destroyed to massive excavations and removal of large volume of rocks and soil
materials. Huge pits will be formed, destroying the aesthetic value of the
· Occurrences of
landslides and mudflows due to the weakening of rocks, accumulation of sand and
other debris in mine dams or in natural depressions may lead to great loss of
life and property.
Effects on water resources
· Intensive drainage
or use of surface and groundwater may cause the drying of streams or the
groundwater discharge in springs or outlets of underground rivers.
· Many mineral
deposits commonly contain pyrites and other sulphuric-bearing minerals which
decompose in water and produce acid water.
· Small-scale gold
mining operations have been responsible for mercury pollution in rivers, lakes
· Heat pollution
results when hot waters are drawn to the surface, as in geothermal waters, and
are then discharged into surrounding water bodies without initial
Effects on the communities
· Dumping of
tailings has affected lowland populations living downstream. Mine tailings fill
streams or river systems and riverbanks are periodically eroded and inundated.
Settlements in relatively lowerelevations are subject to frequent flooding,
large tracts of farm lands are inundated by mine tailings during typhoons or
heavy rains. Tailings are devoid of Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous -- soil
elements necessary for normal plant growth and development. Mine tailings
contain toxic substances directly inimical to sea life and indirectly to
· Mine tailings
caused the filling of certain bays and have been responsible for the siltation
and consequent death of some coral reefs, adversely affecting the fish catch of
· The accumulation
of waste rocks and tailing occupies large areas formerly used for agriculture
and forestry, purposes.
· Mining expansion
and pollution have dislocated many people from their farms, forcing them to
migrate to other areas.
Effects on air
· Pollution of the
air occurs during mining, smelting and refining. Pollution takes the form of
dust or total suspended particulates (TSP), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide
(SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC). Toxic
emissions cover large areas affecting the health of people.
· Acid rain results
from the interaction between sulphur dioxide emissions from smelters fed with
sulphides of copper, lead, zinc and other metals and rainwater. This type of
pollution is responsible for the destruction of some crops and forests, the
pollution of lakes and negative effect on the health of