Air, Noise, Soil Pollution in Mining and Ore Processing IndustryWaterman Engineers Australia
An important part of the economy, mining & ore processing provides the raw materials for a broad variety of goods & materials. It is necessary to mine metals since they may be used in many different items. The extraction of ore, metals, minerals, and jewels from the earth’s crust is mining. Surface mining, underground mining, open-pit mining, & fluid mining are all mining methods. Open-pit mining exposes mineral veins by excavating or blasting out rocks & making open pits inside the ground. For iron, copper, aluminium, gold & silver, it is the most frequent form of mining. It takes more and more blasting to access lower mineral resources when the top ones are exhausted.
The mining & minerals processing industries have made significant efforts to monitor, regulate, and manage the safe usage of chemicals required within production processes and properly manage tailings. Many of the tailings, mined minerals, and harmful compounds are discharged into the environment in less technologically sophisticated or older operations. Their toxic elements adversely impact human health. Abandoned mines and pollutants from previous operations are also major issues.
In both present and historical pollution sites, waste materials are the primary source of contamination. There is a wide spectrum of trash produced by mines. Depending on the procedures and the substance being mined, waste may range from less than 10% of the summed material extracted to well above 99.99%. Process solutions & processed ore are some examples of waste products. Wastewater is one kind of waste product. Chemicals include chlorides, Sulphur compounds, sulfuric acids or hydrochloric & soda or lime ash, and cyanide compounds are all found in the trash. Mine tailings and badly kept waste may harm surface water, groundwater, & agricultural operations at poorly closed or abandoned mining sites. Slag, Wastewater, & solid waste from badly managed mining & ore processing industries are typically thrown directly into surface waterways or heaped up, exposed, near the mines. There is a risk that metals from ore will be carried away with soil, leading to significant erosion and polluted water. Toxic pollution is spread to the surrounding area via inhalation, consumption, and skin contact with polluted food and water.
The atmosphere contains a substantial amount of anthropogenic dust particles. Black carbon from biomass or fossil fuels, industrial & municipal dust, and other forms of particulate matter are only a few examples. Mineralogy studies are necessary to determine the dangers of airborne dust particles to health in hazardous workplaces. Recent studies have investigated the dust generated during the extraction & processing of natural resources. The research focused on the Lubeck and Jelava regions, where mining-related magnesite processing procedures negatively impacted the local ecology and inhabitants.
Residents’ health & life quality might be adversely affected by exposure to tiny particles and their related pollutants. After the tiny mineral particles have entered the alveolar portions of the lungs, they begin to do the greatest damage. Smaller than 2.5 micrometres (2.5 m) of fibrogenic dust particles may penetrate the alveolar epithelium into interstitial space and cause pulmonary dusting (Pneumoconiosis). Fibrosis-initiating and activating insoluble or sparsely soluble minerals are generally active. Magnesite crystals & their pieces are common within samples from the Jelava-Lubenk, as are irregular allotriomorphic aggregates, grains, & masses of periclase. The periclase percentage has been dropping, as seen by dusting monitoring.
Despite mining being closed or the filters within mineral processing facilities being changed, the mineral composition and shape of dust fallout inside the air directly impacts the health of the local people and leads to a rise in respiratory illness prevalence in the area. Keeping the population healthy while reducing pollution in the air should have been a top goal for relevant ministries (such as health and the environment).
Any sound that disturbs or hurts people or animals is considered noise pollution. Noise pollution is often overlooked because it can’t be tasted, seen, or scented, unlike water & air pollution, which are seen, tasted, & smelled. Noise from mining activities is generally louder than normal noise, & mining may take place all night long. Overburden clearance, blasting, drilling, crushing, excavation, loading & unloading, vehicle traffic, and the usage of generators are some of the most common mining & ore processing operations that contribute to noise pollution.
Animals’ quality of life suffers from noise pollution because it reduces habitat quality, increases stress, and obscures other noises. Chronic noise exposure may be particularly damaging for animals that depend on communication sound or hunting.
Species that depend on noise for detecting predators, including owls and bats, may have reduced feeding habits, resulting in diminished development and survival. Various kinds of birds & animals, including nocturnal ones, that depend on vocalization have also been proven to avoid noisy environments. Seed dispersal may be harmed by decreased bird numbers and foraging activity, influencing ecosystem services and biodiversity. Habitat degradation and fragmentation are worsened by noise pollution within natural ecosystems produced by car traffic development or generators.
A significant health danger for millions of mine employees and residents near mining complexes is the noise pollution caused by the operation, deployment, and maintenance of this machinery and facilities. Several physical and mental health issues may result from exposure to noise within the mining sector. The most well-known side effects are noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), tinnitus, difficulty sleeping, conversational disruption, discomfort, and tension.
For soil to be called healthy, it must be able to support animal, plant, & human life. Several pollutants may harm the soil’s ability to sustain life, including poisonous compounds, radioactive materials, chemicals, salts, and disease-inducing agents. Toxic chemicals (pollutants or contaminants) that have a harmful influence on animal health, plant development, and human life should be present in high enough concentrations to be considered soil pollution. No mention of soil contamination can be found in the domestic laws. However, ‘land pollution,’ which includes soil contamination, might be considered. “Any physical or chemical disturbance to the land that leads its players to access and makes it impossible to productive use without treatment” is how Mishra defines “land pollution.” Both soil and land pollution are affected by the entry of pollutants or contaminants, referred to as ‘soil’ pollution or ‘land’ pollution. Despite this, the law has sometimes distinguished between “soil” & “land.”
Underground mining is the most common, but open-pit mining is sometimes used (pit). Surface mining is utilized for shallower deposits and is less lucrative, but underground mining is required when minerals are found at depths more than a few hundred feet. Tailings & waste stones are generated regardless of the technology used in mining. The soil is impacted by tailings, waste rock, and smelting processes. When extracted ore is smashed, powdered, & processed, liquid slurries consisting of water & fine soil material are known as tailings. These are either piled up in a dam or create ‘huge hills’ on the ground (tailings dam). Around 45 landfills and 791 million metric tons of tailings are spread across 9125 hectares.
Soil fertility & farming may be affected by the tailings’ alkalinity or acidity, which are low in nutrients and rich in salts and other toxins. Wind-borne dust particles may create dry tailing dams. These contain significant levels of metals and, if left in the ground, might cause pollution. Enzyme activity may be inhibited, putting plant development at risk. In the EIA process, developers must describe their project’s impact on soil fertility. This is important because it ensures that soil management is sustainable and that mitigating measures are adequate.
Chemicals are used to remove the trace elements from the rock to get the required resource. Chemicals, including cyanide, are employed in metal extraction, but they negatively impact when dumped. A large amount of waste rock is left behind after mining operations, and it is often piled up or dumped. In Zambia, waste rock landfills are estimated to occupy 388 acres and contain 77 billion tons of mining waste in 21 locations. This is a “loss of potential” for residents since more than 10,000 hectares of the Copperbelt are buried with waste rock.
Smelting is the process of removing impurities from metals. An ore concentrate is heated to melt the metal by raising the temperature. Sulphuric acid mist is formed when Sulphur dioxide gas is released into the atmosphere and interacts chemically with Sulphuric acid. The soil becomes infertile due to the acid mist falling on the ground. Acid mist pollution of soils is unaddressed by restrictions limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Soil governance emphasizes the implementation of policies and legislation. The lack of such is due to a lack of focus on the health of the soil, which is essential to the existence of all living things.
Mining operations that have moved outside the Copperbelt region to North-Western, Luapula, Central, Southern, & Eastern Provinces will likely continue to have an increasing influence on the soil. In addition, the existence of additional minerals that need investigation, including gemstones, coal, gold, silver, industrial metals, or other metals (zinc, nickel, & manganese), will pose a danger to the soil’s integrity.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) How does mining contribute to noise pollution?
Overburden removal, drilling and blasting, digging, crushing, loading and unloading, vehicle traffic, and the usage of generators are typical mining and mineral processing activities that cause noise pollution.
2) How does air pollution relate to mining?
Every step of the mining process contributes to air pollution. Unpaved roads, blasting, and dust explosions during loading are the main causes of pollution in mining operations. Significant emissions of fine coal particulates (PM1, PM2), in addition to air pollution from mining activities, are also produced.
3) How can air pollution of mining affect the environment?
The consequences can include soil erosion, sinkholes, biodiversity loss, and contamination of surface, ground, and freshwater resources by chemicals released during mining operations. Carbon emissions from these activities also have an impact on the atmosphere, which in turn affects biodiversity and human health.
4) How can we reduce air pollution in mining?
There are ways that mining companies can become more environmentally sustainable as outlined below.
- Reduce inputs
- Improving the manufacturing process
- Close and reclaim shut-down mines
- Replenishing the environment
- Reduce outputs
- Proper waste disposal
5) What are the main factors affect mining activity?
Physical factors: These include the deposit’s grade, size, and manner of occurrence. b. Economic factors: These include the mineral’s demand as well as the type of technology used.