Environmental Effects of Extracting and Using Mineral Resources

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Mining industry being site-specific and located in tribal and interior areas provides employment to local people directly in mines. In fact mining activity can be a vehicle in the uplift of socio-economic status of the local people. The Indian mining industry is characterised by a large number of small mines.

Environmental Effects of Extracting and Using Mineral Resources

The scale and level of requirement of minerals have increased manifold in our country and it is heading towards the stage where much larger consumption of minerals will be inevitable to sustain even the minimum growth rate of our economy.

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It is pertinent to note that out of the total land area of the country (3.29 million sq. kms.), the area leased out of mining, as on 1.9.94, was 7126.13 sq. kms. Comprising about 9,213 mining leases excluding atomic minerals, minor minerals, petroleum and natural gas this constitutes only about 0.25 per cent of the geographic area of the country and that including atomic minerals and minor minerals it may be around 0.28 per cent of the total area.

Although the area occupied for mining activity is small yet the damage to the environment on account of mining is causing grave concern. Environmental degradation resulting from mining activity in general can be briefly enumerated as follows:

1. Air pollution with dust and gases due to drilling, blasting, mine haulage and transportation by road, and also from waste heaps;

2. Water pollution when atomic elements and other harmful elements are present in the ore/mineral mine effluents;

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3. Modifying water regimes such as surface flow, groundwater availability and lowering down of water table;

4. Soil erosion, soil modification with dust and salt;

5. Noise and vibration problem in the mine and adjoining habitat including wild life;

6. Alteration of the landform;

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7. Deforestation affecting flora and fauna; and

8. Spoiling aesthetics with untreated waste dumps.

The impact of mining in environmental degradation has been receiving attention in recent years.

An overwhelmingly large number of small mines being open pit mines, land degradation including deforestation take place consequent to mineral exploitation where the extent of damage caused by mining may not be significant individually, the cumulative effect, especially by a cluster of mines, becomes fairly large.

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Air pollution is quite common due to blasting and transportation of minerals and very largely by crushing units where such crushing is essential for marketing the mineral.

Even unestablished waste dumps cause air pollution and wash off during monsoon. Over burden and waste generated during mining, degrade land and can pollute adjoining farmlands and water sources.

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