The Secondary Effects of Mineral Development

Miller, Silver ; Emerick, J. C. ; Vogely, William A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 15
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
After location and verification of exploitable mineral resources, mineral development re- quires capital goods, labor, and energy to extract the deposit. In addition, a growing social awareness of the need for a healthy environment re- quires inclusion of environmental burdens to the total costs incurred. This is because mineral development is detrimental to the environment in a number of ways. All mining .operations involve the separation of valuable minerals from the surrounding waste rock, which in turn re- quires permanent disposal of unwanted or un- used materials. Mine overburden, wastes, and tailings are often transferred to peripheral areas where they remain as unsightly features in the natural landscape. Some mine spoils contain harmful or contaminating substances as heavy metal salts or acid forming materials which subsequently are released to the environment. Many types of mining operations handle significant quantities of water during extraction or beneficiation processes. When discharged, the quality of such water often is unsuitable for residential, agricultural, or recreational use. Since mining activity disturbs the natural vegetation in the project area, water may be allowed to transport soil materials into streams, causing erosion and siltation. In particular, surface mining operations disturb the top layers of soils, resulting in losses of productivity for long periods of time. Excavation, transportation, and further processing of large volumes of both ores and waste materials generate substantial quantities of particulate and gaseous emissions, some of which contain metal dusts or compounds of sulfur. Such fugitive and point source emissions can be transported beyond the confines of mineral operations to cause annoyance and damage at more distant locations. Environmental degredation or pollution can be viewed as the alteration of the environment by man through the introduction of materials which represent potential or real hazards to hu- man health, disruption to living resources and ecological systems, impairment to structures or amenity, or interference with socially desired uses of the environment. The significance of environmental degradation is reflected in its effects on a range of receptors, including humans as well as the resources and ecological systems upon which we depend. Pollution also is judged in the social context of damage to environmental structures and amenities. The demand for restoration and maintenance of environmental quality presents the mineral industry with a challenge to successfully man- age discharges and returns to the environment in order to avoid undesirable and harmful consequences. AIR QUALITY Impacts of Mining and Beneficiation Operations Air quality generally is degraded by mining operations through the addition of dust or total suspended particulates (TSP), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and hydrocarbons (HC) to the atmos-
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