Earth Science

Human Impacts on the Earth Environment

Environmental Impacts of Mining

Study Tip
You can think of reclamation as the Earth’s way of reclaiming destroyed, mined land.

Mining and the Environment

  • Although mining provides people with many needed resources, the environmental costs can be high
  • Surface mining clears the landscape of trees and soil, and nearby streams and lakes are inundated with sediment
  • Pollutants from the mined rock, such as heavy metals, enter the sediment and water system
  • Acids flow from some mine sites, changing the composition of nearby waterways
  • U.S. law has changed in recent decades so that a mine region must be restored to its natural state, a process called reclamation
  • Not true of older mines
  • Pits may be refilled or reshaped and vegetation planted
  • Pits may be allowed to fill with water and become lakes or may be turned into landfills
  • Underground mines may be sealed off or left open as homes for bats
Study Tip
You can think of reclamation as the Earth’s way of reclaiming destroyed, mined land.
Acid drainage
Acid drainage from a surface
coal mine in Missouri.
Concept Check
  • What damage may be caused by mining?
  • Why is sediment considered a problem in mined areas?
  • If lands altered by mining in recent decades must be reclaimed, what happens to lands that were mined prior to that law?