environmental impacts of mineral exploitation

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  • Environmental impacts of mineral exploitation
    • Exploration
      • 1). marine seismic surveys cause very loud vibrations and can disturb whales
      • 2). exploration on land can involve land clearance and vegetation loss
    • Land Impacts
      • Extraction may cause conflicts with other land uses
      • Land take: land area required larger than void, land needed for buildings, access routes, over burden dumping and buffer zones
    • Habitat loss
      • 1). loss of species where mineral is to be extracted is unavoidable
      • 2). removing wildlife by capturing animals and transplanting plants to move them has been attempted and failed because either unsuitable habitat or over populated
      • 3). habitat restoration when mining finished, or new habitats created e.g. wetland nature reserve in mine void
      • 4). Loss of amenity: mining may cause aesthetic problems for local communities,  reduced by landscaping + tree planting
    • Pollution
      • Turbid drainage water
        • 2) high water turbidity blocks sunlight from reaching aquatic plants and chokes filter-feeding
        • 3). turbidity of drainage water can be reduced by keeping it in holding lagoon, so suspended sediment settles out
      • Noise
      • Dust
        • Dust: raised into atmosphere by blasting/ vehicle movements, removed by water srays
      • Toxic leachate
        • 1). toxic metal normally immobile in rocks may be oxidised in spoil heap and become soluble. drainage water carries it into river as toxic leachate and it kills aquatic life
        • 2). In hot areas drainage water can be collected and evaporated. metal solution will become more and more concentrated until it may be possible to extract metal econimcally
        • 3). many toxic metals soluble under acidic conditions. passing mine drainage water through filter bed of crushed limestone can immobilise metal and prevent it flowing into river
      • Spoil disposal
        • 1). Spoil heaps are often loosely compacted and instability can cause landslides
        • 2). drainage of rainwater by pipes in base of spoil heap prevents it becoming waterlogged making it a risk of slipping, compaction of spoil prevents this risk
    • Flooding
      • 1). caused by drainage water if pumped out rapidly or stored behind poorly constructed dam which collapses
      • 2). well constructed dams and carefully released water reduces risk
    • Subsidence
      • caused by poor spoil compaction, reduced by compaction and leaving support pillars in deep mines
    • Traffic congestion
      • road traffic from mine can cause congestion and road traffic accidents
      • reduced by using routed that avoid urban areas by building seperate routes or using other transport links e.g. rail


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