Environmentalism, Conservation, and Sustainability: 
Part VIII:  How Can We Limit The Ill Effects Of Mining?

 Mineral supplies on Earth are under threat. Many mineral deposits that have been discovered and mapped have run out of ore. The cost of extracting ores for minerals like aluminum and iron rises as their availability decreases. This increases the cost of purchasing and operating equipment.

Environmental damage caused by mining methods such as mountaintop removal (MTR), which destroys soil, vegetation, and animal habitats, is widespread. Mining can contaminate the environment through the release of hazardous chemicals. Many mining processes pollute water and air, and toxic compounds seep into the ecosystem around them. In Chile and other places throughout North and South America, great effort has been made in promoting conservation through more sustainable mining methods.

Mining practices that are more efficient, as well as the recycling of materials, will aid in the conservation of mineral resources. Japanese car manufacturers are an example of this, recycling many of the raw materials used in production. Recycled metal from automobiles is used in almost one-third of all iron produced in the United States.

Because technology changes so rapidly, electronic gadgets present a significant threat to conservation. Consumers replace their cell phones every 18 months, for example. Computers and televisions are other products that contribute to "e-waste." Americans created more than 3 million tons of e-waste in 2007, according to the US Environmental Protection.

Electronic goods, like most manufactured products, are made of minerals and petrochemical-based plastics. Many of them also contain dangerous chemicals that might migrate from waste dumps into the soil and water supply.

Many nations are putting into effect regulations that demand manufacturers recycle old electronics. Recycling not only prevents electronic trash from going to landfills, but it also saves energy by reducing the number of new items produced. For example, recycling aluminum reduces energy use by 90 percent when compared with mining fresh metal.


September 22, 2023 — Debby McKnight