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Erosion of exposed hillsides, mine dumps, tailings dams and resultant siltation of drainages, creeks and rivers can significantly impact the surrounding areas, a prime example being the giant Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea. In wilderness areas mining may cause destruction and disturbance of ecosystems and habitats, and in areas of farming it may disturb or destroy productive grazing and croplands. In urbanized environments mining may produce noise pollutiondust pollution and visual pollution.


A sinkhole at or near a mine site is typically caused from the failure of a mine roof from the extraction of resources, weak overburden or geological discontinuities.[2] The overburden at the mine site can develop cavities in the subsoil or rock, which can infill with sand and soil from the overlying strata. These cavities in the overburden have the potential to eventually cave in, forming a sinkhole at the surface. The sudden failure of Earth creates a large depression at the surface without warning, this can be seriously hazardous to life and property.[3] Sinkholes at a mine site can be mitigated with the proper design of infrastructure such as mining supports and better construction of walls to create a barrier around an area prone to sinkholes. Back-filling and grouting can be done to stabilize abandoned underground workings.  

Water pollution[edit]

Mining can have harmful effects on surrounding surface and groundwater. If proper precautions are not taken, unnaturally high concentrations of chemicals, such as arsenicsulfuric acid, and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(element)" rel="nofollow" title="Mercury (element)" style="text-decoration-line: none; color: rgb(11, 0, 128); bac

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Acid rock drainage

Acid rock drainage occurs naturally within some environments as part of the rock weathering process but is exacerbated by large-scale earth disturbances characteristic of mining and other large construction activities, usually within rocks containing an abundance of sulfide minerals. Areas where the earth has been disturbed (e.g. construction sites, subdivisions, and transportation corridors) may create acid rock drainage. In many localities, the liquid that drains from coal stocks, coal handling facilities, coal washeries, and coal waste tips can be highly acidic, and in such cases it is treated as acid mine drainage (AMD). The same type of chemical reactions and processes may occur through the disturbance of acid sulfate soils formed under coastal or estuarine conditions after the last major sea level rise, and constitutes a similar environmental hazard.

The five principal technologies used to monitor and control water flow at mine sites are diversion systems, containment ponds, groundwater pumping systems, subsurface drainage systems, and subsurface barriers. In the case of AMD, contaminated water is generally pumped to a treatment facility that neutralizes the contaminants.[7] A 2006 review of environmental impact statements found that "water quality predictions made after considering the effects of mitigation largely underestimated actual impacts to groundwater, seeps, and surface water

Heavy metals[edit]

Dissolution and transport of metals and heavy metals by run-off and ground water is another example of environmental problems with mining, such as the Britannia Mine, a former copper mine near Vancouver, British ColumbiaTar Creek, an abandoned mining area in Picher, Oklahoma that is now an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, also suffers from heavy metal contamination. Water in the mine containing dissolved heavy metals such as lead and cadmium leaked into local groundwater, contaminating it.[9] Long-term storage of tailings and dust can lead to additional problems, as they can be easily blown off site by wind, as occurred at Skouriotissa, an abandoned copper mine in Cyprus.

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Effect on biodiversity

The implantation of a mine is a major habitat modification, and smaller perturbations occur on a larger scale than exploitation site, mine-waste residuals contamination of the environment for example. Adverse effects can be observed long after the end of the mine activity.[10]Destruction or drastic modification of the original site and anthropogenic substances release can have major impact on biodiversity in the area. Destruction of the habitat is the main component of biodiversity losses, but direct poisoning caused by mine-extracted material, and indirect poisoning through food and water, can also affect animals, vegetation and microorganisms. Habitat modification such as pH and temperature modification disturb communities in the surrounding area. Endemic species are especially sensitive, since they require very specific environmental conditions. Destruction or slight modification of their habitat put them at the risk of extinction. Habitats can be damaged when there is not enough terrestrial product as well as by non-chemical products, such as large rocks from the mines that are discarded in the surrounding landscape with no concern for impacts on natural habitat.[11]

Concentrations of heavy metals are known to decrease with distance from the mine,[10] and effects on biodiversity tend to follow the same pattern. Impacts can vary greatly depending on mobility and bioavailability of the contaminant: less-mobile molecules will stay inert in the environment while highly mobile molecules will easily move into another compartment or be taken up by organisms. For example, speciationof metals in sediments could modify their bioavailability, and thus their toxicity for aquatic organisms.[12]

Biomagnification plays an important role in polluted habitats: mining impacts on biodiversity, assuming that concentration levels are not high enough to directly kill exposed organisms, should be greater to the species on top of the food chain because of this phenomenon.

Adverse mining effects on biodiversity depend a great extent on the nature of the contaminant, the level of concentration at which it can be found in the environment, and the nature of the ecosystem itself. Some species are quite resistant to anthropogenic disturbances, while some others will completely disappear from the contaminated zone. Time alone does not seem to allow the habitat to recover completely from the contamination.[13] Remediation practices take time,[14] and in most cases will not enable the recovery of the original diversity present before the mining activity took place