Mining and environment

There are multiple ways mining impacts on the natural environment, for example, impairing air and water quality through contamination and leakage from stored mining waste, and odours, noise and vibration caused by digging the ground and blasting explosives.

Mining repercussions on water quantity can be extensive and long-lasting, for example, pumping of dry holding dumps can lower the ground water table and change the direction of the water flow in the nearby areas. Contaminated water from the mining area can affect the clarity, acidity and salinisation of nearby waters. It can change the metal and nutrient levels causing damage to aquatic organisms and decrease to ability to utilise water for domestic consumption and leisure activities. Also, mining can lessen the value of real estate, especially at the lakesides. Mining of copper ore is widely recorded as causing acid-mine drainage and long-lasting damage to aquatic ecosystems.

A specific problem for metal mining (such as copper and nickel) is storing the mining waste. The dust from the piles of mining waste can cause damage to the soil, cause acidification of freshwater systems, change the growing environment for plants, cause damage to plants and animals, and inhibit photosynthesis. Water emissions can cause ground and surface water contamination, salinisation and acidification decades after the mine closure.

Ore exploration also has environmental impact, although milder than actual mining. The research paper by Geological Survey of Finland reported that ore exploration can cause cloudiness of surface water, change the living environment and destroy plant and animal species. Drilling can cause noise and vibration locally. Also, even explorative digging can cause noise and emissions to water and air.