×

Hello! Socratic's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have been updated, which will be automatically effective on October 6, 2018. Please contact hello@socratic.com with any questions.

How does mining affect biodiversity?

1 Answer
Apr 16, 2016

Answer:

The answer to this is a little complex and scientists still have much to learn about how mining affects biodiversity.

Explanation:

The answer to this is a little complex and scientists still have much to learn about how mining affects biodiversity. When the mine is in use, whatever lived where that mine will obviously have been destroyed or will have relocated. Thus, local biodiversity will decrease while the mine is active.

The overall biodiversity of the larger area may or may not change. This will depend on the type of mining, the chemicals used, the size of the mine, and the environmental practices of whoever is doing the mining.

Chemicals may be released into aquatic environments, and those chemicals may significantly alter the pH of the water, they may poison certain species, and those chemicals may bioaccumulate. Water can potentially transfer any chemicals used in mining a great distance from the mine itself. Some of these chemicals may remain in the ecosystem long after the mine has closed.

These same chemicals are going to affect the surrounding soils. Changes in the soil may lead to changes in the surrounding flora and the local extinction of some plant species.

Soil impacted by chemicals used for mining:
http://earthlife.org.za/2011/04/an-action-plan-for-acid-mine-drainage/

Of course, animals in the surrounding area will be affected by the deforestation, they may also be negatively affected if a plant species once relied upon can no longer grow in the soil, or if they are poisoned through the bioaccumulation of a chemical in the food chain.

Bioaccumulation of mercury:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_in_fish

In some cases, biodiversity of flora actually increases after mining. This is likely because new ecological niches may be available. However, the flora composition post-mine is not the same as before the mine.

However, mines often cover relatively small amounts of space. Because they occupy such small areas, compared to other types of land use, mining is thought to have a relatively low impact on biodiversity.