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Environmental Challenges And The Future Of Underground Mining

by Tracy Finke

Today, environmental protection and preservation of natural resources are some of the most important aspects in every industry, including mining. In recent decades, public awareness of the importance of nature conservation and environmental protection has slowly begun to rise.

It is for this reason that many industries, such as the mining industry, have found themselves at a turning point in terms of environmental protection. What this means for the future of mining and what challenges this industry faces – read below.

Mining And Its Role In Sustainable Development

Source: sensemetrics.com

As we already know, exploiting ore is one of the oldest branches of industry, and we deal with the process of ore mining for a long time. The preparation of excavated ores for further use in industry and everyday life. Mines are natural resources that have traditionally been exploited for thousands of years. It is the industry where good work organization, planning, new technological solutions, and a positive attitude towards the environment are necessary.

However, people still have the most important role in this process. Depending on the method of exploitation, mines are divided into a surface, underground, and underwater. The underground mines are most often used for the exploitation of ores such as coal, etc. They are later used as energy sources in other industries. Generally speaking, underground mining is necessary – but it also plays one of the key roles when it comes to sustainable development.

On the one hand, mineral exploitation creates the largest waste streams, polluting and destroying natural habitats around the world. They are also contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss. On the other hand, dealing with the current environmental crisis requires a shift to renewable energy sources. This is currently unthinkable without mining because the exploitation of minerals plays a key role in that process.

What Environmental Challenges Does Modern Mining Face?

The modern age poses underground mining with great challenges that we need to overcome. Over the years, efforts have been made to find common responses to energy and environmental challenges and to better connect industries – to work in that direction. And what problems do those working in the underground mining industry most often face?

  • Air pollution

Source: azomining.com

There is almost no doubt that this is the No. 1 environmental problem everywhere in the world. The exploitation of underground mines results in the release of mineral deposits that come to the surface of the mine. Later, various factors such as erosion or weather influences such as wind – lead to the transfer of these particles through the air.

These particles are very toxic – and elements such as lead, cadmium, or even arsenic can be found among them. Therefore, they are very dangerous for human health, but they also have a negative impact on the entire environment. Therefore, various measures are being taken to reduce the emission of these harmful particles.

  • Water pollution

Unfortunately, ore exploitation also results in water pollution. This is a particularly big problem because ore mining or processing disturbs aquatic ecosystems, most often due to disruption of groundwater flows – and also due to ore waste that retains these waters. Abandoned coal mines are especially dangerous because the ore waste that remains – increases soil acidity due to sulfur and ore tailings that remain buried.

  • Landscape destruction

Source: greenleft.org.au

Large underground mines also lead to the destruction of the landscape in the area. Namely, due to large amounts of waste stones and open pits – it often happens that the entire landscaping in the environment, (which sometimes has a large radius), suffers.

Then not only the land is damaged, but also the flora and fauna of the area. In addition, these things very often lead to destabilization of the soil in a particular area, and landslides occur – which endangers the surrounding houses, roads, and complete infrastructure. Soil subsidence can be a great danger even years after the closure of certain underground mines.

Green Mining And Applying Modern Technologies Are The Future

Source: medium.com

Due to all the above factors, adequate solutions have been found. That will enable further exploitation of the ore – but it will also reduce the damage to the environment. Certainly, modern technology is a great ally in that task today. So-called Green Mining projects are slowly beginning to revive in many countries.

The main goal of green mining is to reduce the impact and damage on the environment during the entire lifetime of mining activities – from geological research to mine closure and closure, as well as rehabilitation, remediation, and revitalization to leave a healthy ecosystem in the former mining area. Today, modern technology, and above all IoT, helps us a lot in that.

According to Newtrax, the application of IoT and digitalization are key drivers of development in mining. Especially in the segment of process optimization and maximizing the value of existing applications. Attention is shifted to contemporary technologies to optimize investment in equipment, and improve safety – but also decrease negative environmental consequences.

How Can New Technologies Help The Mining Industry?

Source: medium.com

New technologies and rules in the mining industry have greatly improved the efficiency – and reduced the bad environmental impact. Many techniques used in the modern mining industry are significantly more environmentally sensitive as the efficiency is enhanced.

It is primarily because the amount of waste is reduced. Currently, green mining techniques and technologies are becoming more widely used – and the goals for the future are to find new environmentally-friendly technologies that will help us even more.

For now, these technologies are helping us in several ways, such as dust control, which can be done by pre-moistened mined and excavated surfaces. We also have mine water treatment technology – that can be used to isolate the usable metal from highly contaminated or acidic wastewater generated in mines. There are also processes such as the extraction of leached sulfuric acid – which can neutralize wastewater, and in some cases, useful metal can be obtained from that water.

The Bottom Line

In the end, we can say that ore mining is an ancient industry – but that in modern times, it has begun to take on new forms. It is primarily because we are simply more aware of the importance of the environment and the impact that underground mining has on that. To this end, we are helped by new knowledge and new technologies – which are more utilized and will be even more significant in the future.