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Negative Impact Of Coal Mining On The Environment

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Coal extraction is more harmful than the burning process because it has a larger effect on the pollution it causes, contributes to climate change and lastly the landscape and surround .The extraction of coal can generate different types of pollutions that can affect both humans, animals and plant life. The different types of pollutions include air, water, and noise. Air pollution is due to the emission of methane, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and coal dust. These can be released while transporting, collecting, blasting and drilling. Underground mining brings large amounts of waste earth and rock to the surface through drilling and blasting. These waste can become toxic when in contact with air and water. Toxins such as mercury and arsenic are produced. Mercury can cause neurological and behavioural disorders such as tremors and memory loss. Arsenic can cause cancer, lung disease and heart disease (Arsenic, 2018).

Coal dust generated through the mining process can be carried by the wind. A long exposure to this can cause black lung disease which could destroy your lungs. There is no cure for this disease. The main effects of water pollution are Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), increased sediment level and metal contamination. AMD is when acidic water flows through abandoned mines. Coal mining activities have exposed rocks containing the sulfur-bearing mineral when reacting with air and water it forms sulphuric acid. As water washes through mines, it forms an lighter acid, which can wash into nearby rivers. Sediments from soil erosion get into streambeds which leads to rivers and lakes. Metal contamination is caused when arsenic, cobalt, copper, lead and zinc contained in rocks that have holes come in contact with water. They are then drained out as the water washed over the rocks they are carried downstream to rivers. This can kill many marine life and destroy habitats and many other effects.

During the process of mining, there is a lot of noise created by the extremely loud pieces of equipment including haulage, conveyor transfer point, forcing fans, cutting, drilling and blasting (Noise Pollution and Its Control in Mining, 2018). These sounds can last for up to 8 hours. This can cause hearing loss and permanent damage to the inner ear. Since coal mining releases greenhouse gases it is contributing to climate change. The main gas that is released is methane and sometimes carbon dioxide during accidents. Although carbon dioxide is the most responsible gas for climate change and last longer, methane can trap 70 times more heat than carbon dioxide (Zelinski, 2013). A large amount of methane is entering the atmosphere and the environmental protection agency (EPA) believe that coal mining is the fourth leading cause in releasing methane into the atmosphere. Methane is released in three different ways. During the coal mining process, from abandoned mines, and during transportation. During coal mining, the deep you go the more methane is released that was trapped. Abandoned mines still have many chemicals including methane. Overtime methane slowly makes it was out. The transportation of coal also releases methane because some methane remains in coal and is released when transporting.

Coal fires are caused when coal seams burn or when coal storage or waste piles burn (About Coal Mining Impacts, 2016). Coal fires can start by natural causes and forest fires but are commonly caused by mining accidents. Between 20 and 200 million tons of coal burn uncontrollably each year in China (About Coal Mining Impacts, 2016). These coal fires can burn for decades warming the earth’s surface and releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and methane which all contribute to climate change. . There are two different types of coal mining, surface mining and underground mining which cause landscape destruction. Surface mining is a method of extracting minerals near the surface of the Earth. Underground mining is using mining techniques to find coals. This type of mining can cause formation if sinkholes and contaminate soil.

Two common type of surface mining for coal is strip mining and mountaintop mining. Strip mining is the process of removing a thin strip of earth or soil above a desired deposit (Dalto, 2017). Effects of strip mining include Deforestation, habitat destruction, and soil erosion. 80% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in the forest, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their home (National Geographic, 2017). This causes habitat loss. Trees are very important they absorb greenhouse gases and without it means more greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. Trees providing oxygen, improve air quality, conserve water. Soil erosion is when topsoil is removed from one spot to another (Causes, Effects, and Solutions of Soil Erosion, 2016). Effects include water pollution, poor drainage, plant reproduction issues, and soil acidity level become higher due to the loss of organic matter. Mountaintop mining is removing the top of steep mountains to expose desired deposits below (Dalto, 2017).

Effects of mountaintop mining include toxic sludge impoundments, and destruction due to blasting and flying rocks. Coal sludge is also known as slurry is a byproduct of removing coal. It contains heavy metals such as lead, manganese, nickel, arsenic, and mercury. The slurry is contained in impoundments by earth dams. If an impoundment fails, entire communities can be wiped out in a matter of minutes – buried beneath a wave of this toxic sludge (Community Impacts of Mountaintop Removals, 2017). Lastly, blasting can cause flying rocks and damage building foundations. On August 20, 2004, a bulldozer pushed a boulder weighing half a ton from a mountaintop removal site in Virginia. The falling boulder crashed into the side of a residence, crushing 3-year-old Jeremy Davidson in his sleep (Community Impacts of Mountaintop Removals, 2017).

In conclusion, extracting coal has a larger overall effect on not only the environment but also humans. It produces more pollution in air, water and noise. The destruction of landscape and its surroundings not only affects animals but also humans in many ways such as sickness and deaths. Lastly its contribution is the 4 leading cause of global warming and the more we use coal for energy the more mining we do and the higher the contribution ranking goes up.

References:

  1. About coal mining impacts. (2016, July 1). Retrieved from https://www.greenpeace.org/archive-international/en/campaigns/climate-change/coal/Coal-mining-impacts/
  2. Arsenic. (2018, August 28). Retrieved from https://www.greenfacts.org/en/arsenic/l-2/arsenic-7.htm
  3. Causes, Effects, and Solutions of Soil Erosion. (2016, December 25). Retrieved from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-soil-erosion.php
  4. Community Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Appalachian Voices. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/community/
  5. Dalto, J. (2018, February 10). What Is Surface Mining? | Convergence Training. Retrieved from https://www.convergencetraining.com/blog/what-is-surface-mining
  6. Deforestation and Its Effect on the Planet. (2017, July 25). Retrieved from ttps://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/
  7. Hinton, K., & Mckenzie, R. (2011, June 14). 12 Environmental Effects of Coal Mining. Retrieved from http://www.environment911.org/12_
  8. Environmental_Effects_of_Coal_MiningMcDermott, A. (n.d.). Effects of Ocean Pollution on Marine Life. Retrieved from https://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/
  9. Effects_of_Ocean_Pollution_on_Marine_LifeMethane released by coal mining. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/
  10. Methane_released_by_coal_miningMining. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pollutionissues.com/Li-Na/Mining.htmlS. (n.d.).
  11. 11. Mining and Water Pollution. Retrieved from https://www.safewater.org/fact-sheets-1/2017/1/23/miningandwaterpollutionT. (2014, August 5).

  12. 12. Negative Effects of Coal Mining. Retrieved from http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Negative-Effects-of-Coal-Mining

  13. 13. Noise Pollution and Its Control in Mining. (2018, May 14). Retrieved from http://www.environmentalpollution.in/noise-pollution/control/noise-pollution-and-its-control-in-mining/6138

  14. 14. The rising global interest in coal fires. (2014, March 04). Retrieved from https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/rising-global-interest-coal-fires

  15. 15. Water pollution from coal. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Water_pollution_from_coal

  16. 16. Zielinski, S. (2013, November 25). Emissions of Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas, May Be Underestimated. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/emissions-of-methane-a-potent-greenhouse-gas-may-be-underestimated-180947838/

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