#WQM19 Series: Mining

Photo of a surface mine in southern Indiana.

Photo of a surface mine in southern Indiana.

By Sam Fischman

How fracking works.

How fracking works.

Mining, whether it is for coal, oil, aluminium, uranium, silver, or gold, is notoriously damaging to the environment. Often when we think of these impacts, we think of the adverse health conditions that many miners experience, or the loss of wildlife habitat due to strip mining. Unfortunately, those aren't the only negative effects of mining. Mining of resources and their subsequent refinement, often near or at the same site, pollutes tremendous amounts of water.

When rainwater seeps through a mine, it gathers pollutants lying on the ground that alter the acidity of the water. This water can go on to infiltrate aquifers and pollute downstream areas. This pollution can be remedied by adding basic materials to the water and removing contaminated soil.

Fracking can also cause water pollution when boreholes approach aquifers. This can cause the various compounds used in fracking to mix with the previously pristine water. In some cases carcinogens or heavy metals can enter the water supply, rendering the aquifer unusable.

Mining goes hand in hand with processing to create the energy and materials that we use every day. Unfortunately its impact on waterways is nothing short of catastrophic. In the next post we will discuss the impact of refining and manufacturing on our waterways.