“Mining is like a search-and-destroy mission.”
Stewart Udall, Politician
Advantages & Disadvantages of Mining
Mining is quite important to extract large amounts of precious metals and other natural resources out of the ground.
However, mining also implies many serious problems. All pros and cons of mining are examined in the following.
Advantages of Mining
- Mining can help us to assure the supply of important resources
- Important for our technological progress
- Mining is necessary for many products of our daily life
- Employment opportunities for many poor people on our planet
- Can help poor regions to develop and to progress
- Different kinds of mining
- Mature technology
- Efficiency of processes had been optimized over time
- Major income source for some countries
- Can help people to increase their wealth
- May help to increase the economic growth of a country
Mining can help us to assure the supply of important resources
One important benefit of mining is that it can help us to supply humanity with important natural resources of various sorts. For instance, numerous industries rely on fossil fuels or on metals in their production processes.
Without mining, we would simply not be able to produce many important goods and also our mobility would greatly suffer since we still significantly rely on vehicles that use fossil fuels and without those fuels, many of us would no longer be able to commute by car.
Hence, mining can be crucial to supply us with important resources that are urgently needed to ensure a high overall quality of life.
Important for our technological progress
Mining is also important to ensure a high level of technological progress. Our industries rely on natural resources from mining and without sufficient amounts of resources, our technological progress would be slowed down sufficiently.
In fact, the countries with the largest amounts of natural resources will have a huge advantage in the future when it comes to the inventions of new technologies and countries who don’t have access to sufficient resources through mining will have a quite hard time to stay competitive in the fierce global competition.
Mining is necessary for many products of our daily life
You might not know it yet, but numerous products of our daily life had been manufactured with the help of resources that had been extracted through mining activities. For instance, many products have to be heated in order to be formed into shape. For those heating processes, significant amounts of coal have to be burned.
In order to be able to burn this coal, it has to be extracted by mining processes. Therefore, many products of our daily life are directly or indirectly made with the help of mining and without mining activities, the selection of products that are available to us would be much lower.
Employment opportunities for many poor people on our planet
The mining industry also provides a high number of jobs for the local population. Especially in many poor countries of our planet, unemployment rates are quite high and jobs in mining are crucial for the local population in order to make enough money to survive.
Hence, especially in structurally weak regions where people don’t have too many other employment opportunities, mining can also be crucial to ensure the livelihood for many people who would struggle to survive otherwise.
Can help poor regions to develop and to progress
In general, mining can also help whole regions to develop and to progress. If big mining companies settle in poor countries of our planet, they provide plenty of job opportunities for the local population.
In turn, this also implies that the government will have higher overall tax revenue. In turn, more money can be spent on important infrastructure projects, which are crucial to improving the overall quality of life of people.
This can include the construction of roads, hospitals and other things that are crucial to help people in their daily lives.
Different kinds of mining
Another upside of mining is that there are many different kinds of mining. For instance, mining can either be done on land or also in our oceans. This gives countries a great level of flexibility regarding which sort of mining they want to engage in.
Therefore, countries can always choose the sort of mining that is most efficient and least harmful for our environment, which can help to protect our ecosystems to a certain extent.
Mining is also quite a mature technology. It had been used for centuries and we are quite aware of all the negative effects mining can have for our planet. Hence, since we know that, we can take measures to mitigate the adverse effects of mining in order to make mining processes as eco-friendly as possible.
Efficiency of processes had been optimized over time
Since humanity has engaged in mining for a quite long time, also all the processes around mining had been optimized. This includes the use of the most efficient machines, the planning processes as well as the distribution of the raw materials that are extracted in mines.
Hence, most processes around mining are as efficient as they can ever be and therefore, there will not be too many other valid alternatives to conventional mining in order to supply us with sufficient natural resources in the near future.
Major income source for some countries
Many countries also rely on mining as their major income source. Some countries don’t have many other industries, yet they are still able to make a fortune from extracting precious natural resources out of the ground. Thus, especially for those countries, mining is crucial to assure a high level of wealth for the country as well as for its inhabitants.
Can help people to increase their wealth
Not only countries and corporations can benefit from mining, also the local population may be able to increase their overall wealth. People are often able to earn significant amounts of money in mines. Moreover, landowners can sell their land to mining corporations, which are often willing to pay quite decent prices for it.
Hence, especially in poor parts of our planet, also the local population may greatly benefit from the opportunities related to mining.
May help to increase the economic growth of a country
In general, mining can also help to increase the overall GDP and the economic growth of a country. If more people get employed by mining corporations, people will be able to consume more products. In turn, the tax revenue as well as the profits of other companies may increase as well.
Over time, especially in poor countries of our planet, mining can make a great difference in the direction of higher income and a higher overall quality of life for the local population.
Disadvantages of Mining
- Mining can lead to soil pollution
- Groundwater pollution
- Depletion of natural resources
- Mining implies the destruction of habitats
- Endangerment of species
- Loss of biodiversity
- Landslides become more likely
- Ecological imbalance
- Poor working conditions in mines
- Mining can be dangerous
- Indigenous people may have to leave their home
- Insufficient regulations regarding mining
- Serious health issues related to mining
- Contamination with heavy metals
- Child labor in mines
- May not be sustainable in the long run
Mining can lead to soil pollution
As we have seen before, there are many important advantages to mining. However, there are also many issues related to it. One big problem of mining is that it can lead to serious soil pollution. Quite often, large amounts of soil are moved and processed. In addition, many harmful chemicals are used in mining on a regular basis in order to extract precious minerals from the dirt.
In turn, those chemicals can end up in the soil and can significantly contaminate it. This also implies that many bugs and other microorganisms in the soil may die off.
If the soil gets contaminated in mining processes, also the quality of our groundwater will be at risk. Through rainfalls, the contaminants in the soil will be washed through the soil sooner or later and will contaminate our groundwater. This is a quite big problem since water will become a quite scarce resource in the near future due to global warming and we should try to protect our water as best as possible.
Therefore, especially in regions where water will become quite scarce, governments may forbid mining practices in order to ensure the supply of clean water for the local population.
Mining can also contribute to serious levels of deforestation. Since large areas of land have to be used for mining processes, high numbers of trees have to be cut down. However, trees are natural storage spaces for large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Through deforestation, those greenhouse gases will be emitted into our atmosphere, which also contributes to global warming in the long run.
Hence, mining can not only be quite detrimental for the local flora and fauna, it can also speed up climate change.
Depletion of natural resources
Another disadvantage of mining is that it can also lead to the depletion of natural resources. Many resources that are extracted through mining are non-renewable and sooner or later, we will run out of those precious resources. Hence, sooner or later, we will need a proper alternative to conventional mining since there will simply not be enough natural resources left that could be mined.
Therefore, governments around the world should spend plenty of money on research and development in order to find suitable alternatives to mining so that we will no longer have to extract fossil resources out of the ground in the future.
Mining implies the destruction of habitats
Since mining implies the use of large areas of land and often also significant deforestation, also the habitats of many animals and plants will be destroyed. This implies that many animals will have to relocate in order to survive. However, plants cannot relocate that easily and therefore, those plants may greatly drop in populations.
Hence, mining can be quite harmful to our local flora and fauna since it contributes to the destruction of many natural habitats around the world.
Endangerment of species
Through habitat destruction related to mining, many species may also become endangered or even extinct. Many animals and plants are quite used to their natural environment since they evolved in them for thousands or even millions of years.
Therefore, many of those organisms may not be able to adjust to the new living conditions properly and especially for species that are already low in populations, mining can pose a significant threat to their existence.
Loss of biodiversity
If too many animals and plants drop in populations due to the destruction of habitats related to mining, chances are that this will also contribute to a significant loss in biodiversity sooner or later. This can lead to a state where a small number of species dominate whole regions and more and more species may become endangered or extinct over time.
Hence, in order to avoid significant biodiversity loss, governments around the world should make sure that they introduce proper regulations in order to protect enough natural habitats for the local flora and fauna.
Landslides become more likely
Through mining activities, also the risk for landslides increases substantially. This is due to the fact that large amounts of soil have to be moved in order to extract precious resources out of the ground. In turn, the soil will lose plenty of stability over time and landslides will become more likely.
Moreover, through deforestation related to mining, the soil will also become more unstable. All this leads to an increased chance for landslides, which can be quite harmful to the local population since those landslides can destroy many houses and also the livelihood of the local population.
Another problem of mining is that it can also lead to serious ecological imbalance over time. Since many animals and plants will lose their natural habitats due to mining practices, many of them will significantly drop in population. In turn, the balance between predator and prey animals may be altered in an unnatural manner and over time, ecosystems may get out of balance sooner or later.
In extreme cases, whole ecosystems may become dominated by only a few species while many other species may become locally extinct in the long run.
Poor working conditions in mines
In many mines across the globe, especially in poor developing countries, also the working conditions for the local population are quite poor. In many regions, mining is the main industry branch and provides most jobs. However, mining companies often know that locals rely on those jobs in order to survive and therefore, those companies don’t have to care about treating their workers well.
In fact, people often have to work in those mines for quite long hours. Many of them don’t even wear proper protection and the life expectancy of those workers is usually quite low. Moreover, workers often also only earn low wages. Sure, those wages are often better compared to working in other jobs.
Yet, this doesn’t change the fact that mining companies often make quite high profits while the local population who works in those mines will be barely able to survive.
Hence, in order to protect those workers from getting exploited by big mining corporations, governments in those countries should introduce minimum wages and other regulations that aim to improve the overall safety in those mines.
Mining can be dangerous
Mining is also quite dangerous. In fact, numerous people who work in mining lose their lives each year. Especially in poor developing countries, working conditions in those mines are often quite bad and the safety measures are often insufficient or even non-existent.
This means that workers risk their lives for quite low wages in mining every day. Hence, in order to protect those workers from the dangers that are related to mining, there should be a set of minimum official safety standards and regulations in place.
Indigenous people may have to leave their home
Mining often also implies that a significant number of indigenous people have to leave their homes. Some remote parts of our planet are still populated by indigenous people who live in line with nature and don’t engage in the modern Western lifestyle at all. For those people, nature is their home and those people couldn’t even imagine living a different lifestyle.
However, if big mining corporations buy those areas of land, chances are that indigenous tribes will have to leave their homes and that they have to relocate to bigger cities. However, chances are that these people will never be happy with the city life since they had been used to living in remote areas of our planet and will likely not be able to adapt to the new conditions in a proper manner.
Hence, relocating those people solely due to mining purposes seems not to be justifiable and therefore, governments should protect those local tribes so that they can continue to live their natural way of life without being disturbed by mining corporations.
Insufficient regulations regarding mining
In general, the rules and regulations regarding mining are quite lax in many countries all over the world. Workers can be exploited quite easily and large areas of land can be bought by international mining corporations without the need for official permissions by the government.
However, in order to protect our environment and also to improve the overall conditions for the local population, it is crucial that those regulations become far stricter.
Serious health issues related to mining
Mining often also implies significant health issues for local miners. Quite often, miners have to work under quite unsafe conditions and there are many cases where mines just collapsed and buried miners.
Moreover, in order to extract precious metals from out of the ground and to separate it from the dirt, harmful chemicals like quicksilver are used in some countries on a regular basis.
The use of those substances can be quite harmful to the health of workers since it can cause cancer and several other health problems.
Contamination with heavy metals
Not only workers can get contaminated through the use of heavy metals related to mining, also the nearby environment can get contaminated by those substances. Quite often, those heavy metals are not properly disposed of and are just illegally dumped into nearby forests or lakes.
In turn, this can lead to serious soil and groundwater pollution and many people may get contaminated and may suffer from serious health issues over time.
Child labor in mines
In many countries where rules and regulations regarding the employment of people in mines are quite lax, there is also a significant risk that children are exploited and are forced to work in those mines instead of going to school. In turn, this can lead to a serious lack of education for those kids, which will likely trap them in poverty later on in their lives.
Hence, governments around the world should aim to take measures to mitigate the problem of child labor in mining in order to offer those kids better prospects for the future.
May not be sustainable in the long run
Mining will also not be sustainable in the long run. Most resources that are mined are non-renewable and will become depleted sooner or later. At one point in time, it will simply no longer be reasonable from an economic perspective to engage in mining and therefore, mining can be regarded as a short-term solution more than a long-term plan.
Therefore, humanity should switch to renewable resources as soon as possible in order to make mining obsolete and to make our overall lifestyles much more sustainable.
Top 10 Mining Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Mining Pros||Mining Cons|
|Mining is crucial to secure our resource supply||Mining may not be sustainable in the long run|
|Important for many different industries||Mining contributes to deforestation|
|Job opportunities related to mining||Can lead to significant soil pollution|
|Important for the development of a region||Groundwater pollution|
|Higher tax income for governments||Habitat destruction|
|Mining is crucial for technological progress||Biodiversity loss|
|Mining is a mature technology||Endangerment of species|
|Processes around mining are quite efficient||Mining can lead to ecological imbalance|
|Can help to increase the wealth of locals||Mining can be dangerous for workers|
|Can foster economic growth in a country||Exploitation of locals|
Do We Need Mining?
As we have seen from the previous discussion, there are many advantages and disadvantages of mining. Even though we need mining to provide us with important resources in the short run, we should aim to switch to renewable resources instead of fossil ones as soon as possible in order to reduce the negative effects of mining and also to ensure the sustainability of our lifestyles on a global scale.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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