Environmental Damages Due To Mining

Minerals are one of the primary driving forces of human development, many regions in the world depend on their mineral reserves as a source of income. A recent study published in the  Journal for Cleaner Production, finds that their total environmental costs amount to as much as 4 trillion pounds ($5tn) every year.


The study analyzed a variety of minerals and 38 types of raw materials from US and British geological surveys. It included coal, iron and natural gas among others. The study used a method called ‘cradle-to-gate’, which measures the emissions related to associated with all the stages of a product’s life, but not use. Parameters of measurement include greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matter emissions, acidification, land-use change, resource depletion and toxicity. It also focuses on diseases and the quality of life of mine workers and the resulting biodiversity loss due to environmental degradation. 

The study was conducted with an aim of determining the environmental costs of mining in different countries. It concluded that the annual costs of the mining industry are about  $.4 trillion, which is about .5% of the world’s GDP, taking future costs into account the costs rise to $5 trillion annually, of which $ 3 trillion is just from greenhouse gas emissions.Major contributions are from iron (23%), coal (18%), magnesium (13%) and crude oil (10%). 

Some countries like India, China, Russia and Brazil have higher environmental costs and lower economic costs associated with mining, and some environmental losses exceed economic benefits these include Rwanda, Gabon, Madagascar and Afghanistan.