How does mining change the Earth's surface?

1 Answer
Mar 10, 2016


Mining tends to be a localized activity. Do a Socratic search on this topic for more information.


Basically, mining tends to be a localized disturbance in the immediate area of the mine site. It does not change the global or regional land surface as much as say, deforestation in Brazil or Indonesia.

Mining is usually done by strip methods for coal, which tends to produce the largest ecological footprint. However, most western countries do have requirements that companies reclaim the land within some "x" amount of time. In some Canadian mines, the companies must do reclamation on a continuous basis as mining proceeds.

Open pit mines are the other major surface mine and these tend to be smaller in size that strip mines, but often very, very deep. Many countries will not require companies to re-fill open pit mines and they usually fill up with water and can become sources of toxics into water systems. Open pit mines usually reach an economic limit and then, if there is still minerals present, companies might switch to underground mining.

Underground mines have very little surface expression, unless the overlying strata collapses one the mine is abandoned and this can leave sink holes on the surface (see similar Socratic question).