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Artisanal mining and its effects on the environment

Mining is one of the oldest activities developed by man, being a sector of special relevance in the progress of human beings. It consists of the exploitation, selective extraction and use of minerals and other materials disposed in the earth’s crust or in the subsoil, from which an economic benefit can be obtained.

You want to know more? At AgroCorrn we tell you all about artisanal mining and its effects on the environment .

  1. Mining and environment by type
  2. Artisanal mining
  3. Environmental impact of mining

Mining and environment by type

There are different types of mining depending on the mineral that is extracted:

  • Metallic mining : minerals are extracted that are used as raw material for the elaboration of manufactured products (copper, silver, gold, aluminum, lead, iron).
  • Non-metallic mining : minerals are extracted that are used as construction and ornamentation material (granite, marble, mica) or as raw material in the jewelry sector (quartz, sapphire, emerald).
  • Mining of energy or fuel minerals : minerals used mainly to generate energy (oil, natural gas and coal) are extracted.

The exploitation process can be carried out in the open or underground. This depends on certain factors such as the geology and geometry of the deposit and the characteristics of the mineral itself.

Artisanal mining

Most of the mining industry is developed on a large scale, through the investment, control and monitoring of large companies that produce more than 5,000 tons of materials per day. However, there is another type of mining called artisanal or small-scale, which produces less than 350 tons per day and is located mainly in developing countries (Brazil, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

Currently there is no accepted definition of artisanal mining, in fact, this concept can include very different activities, from the extraction of the material to the washing process. However, a series of characteristics are attributed to it , such as:

  • Minimal use of machinery and technology . Workers use simple tools, equipment, and techniques that require greater physical effort.
  • Exploitation of natural resources outside the regulatory and legal framework , without having security and protection measures, or exploitation and restoration plans.
  • Low productivity due to the use of inefficient techniques since it is usually carried out in small plots and in marginal land areas created by diversity of materials.

In many cases, this activity is a subsistence technique used mainly in rural areas that involves entire families, assuming the only opportunity to earn income, get out of poverty and combat unemployment.

Environmental impact of mining

On the other hand, the impact of artisanal mining on the environment can be considerable, since it is not regulated or respects any type of environmental norm, causing important long-term consequences. Among the environmental problems it causes , we can highlight:

  • Erosion and deforestation : it is the result of the great earth movements that are carried out to explore the material, eliminating the vegetation and preventing it from regenerating.
  • Mercury and Cyanide Contamination : These elements are used to separate and extract gold from the rocks or stones in which it is found. Mercury adheres to form an amalgam that facilitates its separation from rock, sand or other material, while cyanide combines with metals and allows them to dissolve. The problem occurs when its use is abused in an indiscriminate way, emitting amounts in liquid and gaseous form into the environment.
  • Air pollution : through the emission of solid impurities, dust, toxic and inert fuels and even vapors or gases of mercury, cyanide and sulfur dioxide contained in waste gases. In the following article we will talk about what are the air pollutants .
  • Water pollution and damage in alluvial areas : caused by dumping large amounts of chemicals and particles into rivers that cloud the water, reduce the amount of oxygen and affect the development of flora and fauna. In other cases, the excessive accumulation of particles and materials can interfere with the course of rivers, transforming them into sludge.
  • Destruction of the landscape : extraction procedures are generally very aggressive and cause the alteration of the natural ecosystem and the loss of its characteristics, as well as the flora and fauna present in the territory, which due to the changes produced in their habitat are forced to run away.

In summary, mining is an activity considered a key process in economic development. However, there is a risk that it will become socio-economic enclaves and cause great problems in the environment. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to social and environmental aspects, assessing both the opportunity and the risk involved and taking measures to guarantee a responsible approach to the exploitation of mineral resources.

If you want to read more articles similar to Artisanal mining and its effects on the environment , we recommend that you enter our category of Other environment .

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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