Why is mining a problem?

1 Answer
Apr 28, 2016

If done properly, mining is not a problem and often contributes significantly to a country's economic wealth, including job creation.
If done poorly, it can result in a number of environmental problems.


Prior to a mine being developed a strong Environmental Impact Assessment report is usually completed by the company, at least in western countries. This document is reviewed by government and is used to set out the conditions under which the mine will operate and what should happen when mining is completed (including reclamation).

For example, the pit will be such and such a size, effluent will not be dumped in rivers, emissions to the air will be such and such and once mining is completed, the area will be reclaimed by such and such methods (all of the "such and suchs" are highly variable depending on the situation and the government involved.

The problem with mining is that if a government doesn't insist on these kinds of conditions as part of their approval, the mining company can leave a real mess that governments and taxpayers have to pay to clean up or mother natures cleans it up and this can take centuries to thousands of years.

The other problem is that some times even if a company has these kinds of obligations, they might ignore them if there is poor enforcement by government. In the past, some mining companies, knowing the mine would shut down soon, would siphon off company money to shareholders or executives and then declare bankruptcy - they would then tell government they have no money to do reclamation work. Upfront bond requirements as a condition of their initial mining approval are starting to stop this practice.