05 August, 2014
but dirty fuel source…
We have started to look for other sources of
renewable energy, but to date, coal is still the number one energy source. Coal
provides 40% of the world’s electricity and it produces 39% of global Carbon
Dioxide emissions. It’s one of the drivers of our current issue with Global
It’s a dirty source of fuel and it’s destructive
to people and the environment from the moment it is mined.
effects of mining coal on the environment
There are 2 ways to mine coal – Strip Mining and
Underground Mining – both ways have
their own impact to the environment and health. We know it but coal is such a
cheap energy source that we don’t want to let go of it.
The negative effects of coal mining cannot be
of Landscapes and Habitats: Strip mining also known as surface mining,
involves the stripping away of earth and rocks to reach the coal underneath. If
a mountain happens to be standing in the way of a coal seam within, it will be
blasted or levelled - effectively
leaving a scarred landscape and disturbing ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
of Ecosystem Destruction
and Erosion: As part of the process of clearing the way for a
coal mine, trees are cut down or burned, plants uprooted and the topsoil
scraped away. This results in the destruction of the land (it can no longer be
used for planting crops) and soil erosion. The loosened topsoil can be washed
down by rains and the sediments get into
rivers, streams and waterways. Downstream, they can kill the fish and plant
life and block river channels which cause flooding.
Mining Effects on the Environment
Ground Water: The minerals from the disturbed earth can seep
into ground water and contaminate water ways with chemicals that are hazardous
to our health. An example would be Acid Mine Drainage. Acidic water can flow
out of abandoned coal mines. Mining has
xposed rocks which contain the sulphur-bearing mineral, Pyrite. This mineral reacts to air and water to form
sulphuric acid. When it rains, the diluted acid gets into rivers and streams
and can even seep into underground sources of water.
Air & Dust Pollution: Underground mining allows coal companies to dig
for coal deeper into the ground. The problem is that huge amounts of earth and
rock are brought up from the bowels of the earth. These mining wastes can
become toxic when they are exposed to air and water. Examples of toxins are
mercury, arsenic, fluorine and selenium. The amount of dust generated in mining
operations can be carried to nearby towns by the wind. These dust particles can
cause all kinds of health problems for humans who are exposed to it.
in the Atmosphere: Coal mine methane emissions from underground mining are often caught and used
as town fuel, chemical feedstock, vehicle fuel and industrial fuel – but very
rarely is everything captured. Methane is less prevalent in the atmosphere as
compared to carbon dioxide, but it is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse
Fires: Fires from underground mines can burn for
centuries! These fires release smoke into the atmosphere - smoke which contains
carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NOx),
sulphur dioxide (SO2) and other toxic greenhouse gases.
Hazards: Coal dust inhalation can cause black lung
disease. Miners and those who live in nearby towns are the most affected.
Cardiopulmonary disease, hypertension, COPD, and kidney disease are found in
higher than normal rates in people who
live near coal mines.
of Communities: All of these negative effects force people to
move to other places as their air and water gets polluted and expanding coal
mines make use of more and more of their habitat.
Read more about the contributors to our current
environmental problems and how you can help in your own small way. One positive
action towards the right direction can help reverse the damages to our
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Environmental Impacts of Coal