Mining refers to the removal of minerals from the earth’s surface. It involves excavating the earth’s surface in pursuit of these minerals for commercial purposes (Azcue 1999, p. 4). Mining is done on both small and large scales depending on where the activity takes place. Mineral rich places are characterized by large-scale mining whereas places with limited mineral resources witness small-scale mining. Gold and diamond are among the most exploited minerals in the world because of their value (Azcue 1999, 16). Therefore, they are mined in both small and large scales in different parts of the world. Irrespective of the mineral mined and the mining style used, the activity has different effects on both the environment and livelihoods.
The environment has suffered massive degradation in recent years when mining of gold and diamond activities have increased. This is raising concerns for what direction mining is taking the world environmental to. Similarly, gold and diamond mining has affected the life of man negatively by causing health hazards that have resulted in many deaths (Coppola 2011, p. 68). In addition, the two minerals have had varied impacts on the markets when they get there. Their market is characterized by illegal dealings which take place in well-established black markets. This report seeks to examine how mining gold and diamonds has become an environmental issue and at the same time is causing deaths in mining areas. It highlights the effects which both gold and diamond mining has on the environment and life. Various environmental hazards are evaluated in relation to deaths and destruction of the surrounding witnessed all over the globe. The manner in which gold and diamond have transformed into the market is also highlighted followed by a set of recommendations on how to retard the problems.
Gold Mining as an Environmental Hazard
Mining companies all over the world have gone ahead to carry out their mining activities with total disregard for the environment. The current regulation of gold mining in many parts of the world is causing severe environmental, social problems and damage to people living around the mines. This is because mining causes disturbances on the earth’s surface in the form of excavations. Mining of gold also triggers emission of some toxic chemicals into the environment thus causing pollution. A study carried out in the Co-Operative Republic of Guyana (Guyana) revealed that gold mining has caused sharp increases in the sedimentation of the rivers. According to the International human rights clinic, university of Massachusetts (2007, p. 13), mercury levels were also found to have increased in the river waters and creation of artificial sandbars in the rivers was detected. In addition, rampant deforestation leading to land infertility and mosquito infestation was observed. This obviously transformed into an increase of malaria cases in the affected parts of the country. Such effects to the environment and social status of people have resulted into fatalities killing not only miners but also people living near the mines directly and indirectly.
Gold mining in the Amazon has shown massive pollution of the environment with mercury. According to Hester et al. (1994, p. 224), the informal sector of gold mining show that the amount of mercury released into the environment is equal to the amount of gold mined. A study in the Amazon showed that, for every 100 tons of gold produced by the informal sector about 100 tons of mercury was released into the environment. Researchers from Brazil have estimated this to be about 1% of the total global emissions of mercury into the atmosphere. These emissions have still been estimated to be about 6 % of anthropogenic emission. Spillage into the rivers matches with the total annual release of mercury into the North Sea (Hester et al. 1994, p. 85).
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Effects of Diamond Mining
According to the world diamond council, mining companies are also struggling with several environmental challenges. Exploitation of this mineral is causing a vast impact on the environment because of the massive excavations of the earth’s surface. The council admits that there are insufficient regulation policies in place to regulate mining thus allowing mining companies to overdo it beyond sustainable environmental limits (Earle, Redmann, and Adèle 1996, p. 93). In addition, there are many chemicals emanating from mining activities leading to pollution of the environment. This includes release of poisonous gases into the atmosphere, chemical release into the water resources and the soil. Air pollution is also rampant in diamond mining because the energy used there comes mainly from electricity and hydrocarbons. The latter includes petrol, oil, marine gas, and diesel and is the most responsible for poisonous emissions. Similarly, diamond mining leaves enormous chunks of land useless because of excavation of top fertile. This affects humus content thus leaving the land bare and less productive.
Dangers of Active and Abandoned Mines
Mining of gold and diamond has some common effect on the environment. The two mining exercise result into active and abandoned mines in places where mineral seem to subside (Earle, Redmann, and Adèle 1996, p. 117). These empty excavations pose a danger to the environment in different ways. First they feature trap water that is contaminated with chemicals used in mining. Studies have shown that when this water is pumped out of the mines, it pollutes the soil and water resources like rivers, dams, lakes, and even oceans that may be around.
Destruction of Natural Habitats
Natural habitats are under a constant threat from gold and diamond mining whenever deposits are cited even near protected areas (Azcue 1999, p. 88). This is because the effects mining has on the environment are adverse. Several natural habitats have suffered wanton destruction from mining of various minerals especially gold. The Lorentz National Park in New Guinea was under such threat in 70’s when gold was discovered around it (Unknown Author, 2011). Since then, mining activities around the mine had resulted into massive destruction of the environment due to the digging of exceptionally large open mines that will be visible from the outer space 30 years from when it was started. Mining oil, gas and other minerals pose a threat to 26% of New Guinea’s natural environment since the area is rich in these minerals. If this mining is going to be allowed, then the area is going to destroy all the natural habitats thus affecting the environment.
Mining Profession as a Leading Killer
The mining industry is now branded as the leading killer of workers among all other industries. Research has shown that 80% of these deaths occur in China due to the extensive nature of the mining industry in that country. For instance, 6000 people perished courtesy of mining in China alone in 2001 (Coppola 2011, p. 52). Mining accidents also claim significant number of lives in developing countries. Unofficial statistics put total deaths at 20,000 all over the world every year. These accidents have received considerable attention, especially from the media and affected government. However, there seems to be a decrease in these accidents because people can stop or reduce mining. The demand for minerals is high as well as the returns.
According to an environment safety website ‘No dirty gold', mining is the most dangerous job worldwide. According to the international labor organization, about one percent of the world's labor force engages in mining (Unknown Author, 2011). However, mining industry accounts for a whooping five percent of all labor fatalities. The world labor organization cites rock falls, fires, tunnel collapses, and heat exhaustion among other as the most common accident in mining. This results to over 15,000 deaths every year with more than half being in China. According to the ministry of mineral and energy affairs of South Africa in the year 2007, each tone of gold was estimated to cause one death and twelve fatal injuries.
Deaths of miners occur mainly because of accidents that happen at mining cites. Most of these accidents are occurring because of poor precautionary measures. Most mining sites lack the safety requirements thus exposing their workers to life threatening risks that come with accidents. In a study carried out in Geita district in 2002, on the environmental and socio-economic effects of mining on the local occupations in Tanzania, it was established that mine accidents occur during the rainy seasons and gold rushes (Kitula 2006, p. 7). According to this report, these mine accidents have caused minor and serious injuries with some killing many people. The report cites poor training of minors as the major trigger of these accidents. In addition, the mining equipments used in the areas are crude thus not matching the acceptable tool sophistication thresholds.
Killer Diseases Resulting from Mining
In addition, to accidents, mining causes death via diseases it may cause to mineworkers. This is also accompanied by long-term disabilities, which may end up killing the affected individuals. The most responsible elements of such deaths are chemicals used in mining and those that come from the earth’s surface (Unknown Author 2011). Diseases such as bronchitis, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and silicosis are common among mineworkers thus killing some of them. Temperature inside mining tunnels may go as high as 160 degrees Celsius (140° F) thus affecting the normal body functions. This usually results in damaged nervous system and altered blood pressure eventually causing death. Whereas the UN puts the average life expectancy at 65, miners register 35-40 years of life expectancy. This means that mining, as a profession is a silent killer.
8.0 Market Dynamics of Gold and Diamond and How They Inflow to the Market
Despite the many ills associated with mining of gold and diamond, another challenge is posed when the minerals are entering into the markets. These minerals have formed fertile smuggling platforms where unscrupulous dealers gain a lot from the illegal sale of minerals (Azcue 1999 p. 119). Exploitation of the highest level is experienced too whereby intermediaries buy the minerals at throwaway prices from helpless miners only to make a kill in profits when they reach the international markets. These sources of income are common in Africa and other mineral rich but poor countries.
There are well known gold and diamond sale avenues. However, some of the minerals fall into hands of illegal traders thus establishing a black market for these minerals. According to the Commonwealth Secretariat Report, (2006, p. 27), this is common in armed conflict areas of the world. Diamond and gold are particularly vulnerable because they have extremely high values and can be stolen and transported easily. Stolen minerals are used for money laundering and in foreign exchange transactions. In addition, these minerals are used in gambling and gambling activities in casinos (31).
In most regions, about 5 to 10 percent of diamonds produced annually is lost to thieves or pilferage leading to the formation of the black markets (Commonwealth Secretariat 2006, p. 33). Otherwise, other conventional methods of trading in gold and diamond helped producers benefit accordingly. Proposed mechanisms of solutions to these problems revolve around enforcement of stringent laws all over the world. Severe punishment should be set for minerals smugglers.
From the findings in this report, it is evident that mining could be bringing more pain than benefits to the people. It is worth noting that nature is truly unforgiving and its current destruction may have more adverse effects when it backfires in future. This report has revealed a number of environmental issues associated with mining. The release of toxic substances into the environment and destruction of soils forms on the earth’s crust is the most devastating effects of mining. Therefore, there is the need to control mining if such effects are to be contained. The emerging health safety issues ought to be addressed to as well. The best method to do this is by enacting domestic and international laws to safeguard mineworkers. Unless such steps are taken, mining is going to claim more of the environment and human lives in the future.
10.0 Solutions and Recommendations
To control the problems that come from mining, many measures should be taken. As to the environment, all countries should be encouraged to observe environment conservation laws when mining. This includes regulation of the extent of excavations and regulation of the amount of chemicals released into the environment. Observation of international laws will save the nature and thus help in conservation of the environment. As much as mining companies wish to mine more minerals, they should ensure that they do it with minimal disturbance to the environment. England and Wales have established an extraordinarily elaborate mechanism that regulates mine discharge. Under the water act of 1989, the two countries have managed to ensure that the effluent is treated before it is released in the environment (Hesteret et al. 1994, p. 241). This is a perfect example of how pollution can be stopped through this means. Such control regimes entail regulating the quantity, quality, discharge regime and close monitoring of the mine water. This is done through signing of consent between the government and the miners. This law has helped much in reducing pollution from mines.
To deal with workers related issues, mining companies should be compelled legally to observe health and safety laws. It is shocking that the international council of metals and mining (ICMM), a body made up of the 25 largest mining companies has declined to recognize laws on collective bargain by workers (Unknown Author 2011). These laws seek to ensure that the working environment is conducive and safe for mining. The refusal of the body to recognize them is connected perhaps with the too high price, which they are not willing to pay. Currently, only 20 nations have ratified ILO’s convention labor laws on mining health and safety. Ironically, some of the leading mining countries including Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Russia, and Peru have not ratified the convention. This means that environmental degradation and deaths of miners due to mining will continue until these nations agree with such regulatory measures.
Azcue, M 1999, Environmental impacts of mining activities: emphasis on mitigation and remedial measures. New York,Springer.
This book defines mining and all that is involved. It gives a wider perspective of mining by first giving the history of the exercise. However, the overall impacts of mining occupy most of its contents. Issue discussed rages from environmental impact to health and safety. Mechanisms with the help of which natural habitat are destroyed by mining are explained. It is important for this research because natural habitats are some of the most affected areas. Therefore, it gives an insight into degrading effects of mining on nature. The book also touches briefly marketing issues associated with mining. It exposes smuggling as one of the social effects of gold and diamond among other minerals mining. Therefore, it is very crucial for providing information on the overall effects of mining.
Commonwealth Secretariat 2006, Combating money laundering and terrorist financing: a model of best practice for the financial sector, the professions and other designated businesses. The journal ofnaturaal sciences, Vol. 13; pp. 37-52.
The manner in which minerals enter the markets was also among the main items to be presented by this report. This article presents a number of ways in which minerals are traded all over the world. It pays more attention to gold and diamonds due to their higher value and vulnerability to theft. Black market is defined in relation to vices that come with it. The usual and acceptable channels of trade are also discussed, therefore, the article serves better for writing this report especially in market matters associated with gold and diamond buying and selling. The impact of these minerals on peace of the areas they come from is presented well thus helping in assessing the effect of both legal and illegal types of the two minerals. To assess the marketing characteristics of these minerals, this article was very useful because it highlights what actually happens after the minerals leave their country of origin.
Coppola, D 2011, Introduction to International Disaster Managemen. New York: Elsevier.
This book talks about how disasters happen and how they can be avoided in mining. It presents mining disasters as international problems. Accidents such as collapses of tunnels, gas poisoning, and fires are given as some of the most common accidents associated with mining. The book also presents statics analysis of the number of fatalities that take place all over the world. It is therefore very useful for this research because it gives a clear picture of how dire the situation looks like. Remedial measures to some of these disasters are also discussed in this book and thus giving the report an upper hand in evaluating some of the precautionary measures that ought to be taken.
Earle A, Ripley, Robert R, Adèle A 1996, Environmental effects of mining,New York, St. Lucie Press.
The book focuses on both social and environmental effects of mining. Information from the world diamond council is used in this book to show the weight behind the competencies of mining companies when it comes to conserving the environment. It stresses on how perturbed the global body is, concerning excavations done in the earth’s surface for diamond mining purposes. Useful information for this research in the book is the fact the mining creates active and abandoned mines. These features are some of the most common disgusting creations of mining. Therefore, more about the effects of mining diamonds is collected from this book. This material is thus important for this reports as it helps in exposing some of the most difficult challenges in facing the effects of mining diamonds. This is because the information is taken from a very authoritative body that regulated mining of diamonds.
Hester, E, Harrison, M, and Royal Society of Chemistry (Great Britain) 1994, Mining and its environmental impact. The journal of environment, Vol. 17, pp. 220-245.
This article discus the general affects of mining on the environment. It highlights issues of pollution of water and soils. An in-depth analysis of the effects of gold mining in the Amazon is presented in this source. Another important topic on control of mine effluents helps in explaining some of the remedial measures presented in this report. The impact of gold mining in the Amazon exposes how serious release of mercury into the water streams and rivers is. Therefore, the source has provided the report on a rich source of specific hazards associated with mining of gold.
International human rights Clinic: university of Massachusetts 2007, The failure of Government oversight and the human rights of Amerindian communities. Journal of International human rights clinic , Vol. 21 pp. 5-73. [Online] Available at: http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/hrp/documents/AllThatGlitters.pdf
This document highlights various harmful effects caused by gold mining to Amerindians people of the republic of Guyana. Although some attention is given to social impacts of gold mining, a lot is discussed on environmental issues. Effects of pollutants such as mercury and cyanide to the water around this place have been explained explicitly. The article also talks about sedimentation and deforestation that leads to degradation of the soil. In addition, it looks at government regulation and its weaknesses. Tops touching on water rights, use of poisonous substances for mining, mineworkers education and conservation plans make the article more beneficial to this research. This is because the topics have been supplemented with solution-based approaches that can help in mitigating the effects of mining as a whole. This forms a rich ground to draw remedial measures that ought to be taken. The article also contributes a lot to solutions given in the reports in terms of applying regulatory measures. Therefore, this item has contributed much to highlighting some of the environmental impacts of mining thus aiding in reporting these effects.
Kitula, A 2006,The environmental and socio-economic impacts of mining on local livelihoods in Tanzania: A case study of Geita District. Journal of Cleaner Production , Vol. 14, pp. 405-414.
This article highlights various environmental impacts of mining in a particular district within Tanzania. Social and cultural effects of mining are also highlighted in the article but with more focus on the health, safety and environmental issues. Attention is also given to causes and solutions to these problems. Lack of protective gear and crude ways of mining are identified as the major causes of mining fatalities. Poor regulation mechanisms provided by the authorities are also cited as contributors to the problems associated with mining. Therefore, this article is very important for this research because it helps in establishing various safety issues surrounding mining in general. More on accidents that happen mainly in gold mining cites will be obtained from this article. It also offers a number of solutions to the problems associated with mining, and thus very important for this research.
Unknown Author, 2011, No dirty Gold, [Online] Available at: http://www.nodirtygold.org/threatened_natural_areas.cfm
This website is mainly concerned with revealing many detrimental effects of cold mining to the society. There is explained the reason why the gold is considered to be dirty. This website provides lots of information about how gold leaves a trail of destruction in the surrounding. A profile of how mining companies have failed to ratify the international labor organization conventions is given. This has aided much in researching about how easy or difficult dealing with mining problem is. Therefore, solid conclusions and recommendations have been gathered from such information. Since the site is designed as an environmental campaign tool, the site provides a wide range of environmental and social effects of mining. Worker rights and safety issues are highlighted thus giving this report a sufficient supply of how mining companies disregard health and safety issues. Pollution of the air and soil by chemicals used for mining such as mercury is caused and detailed information on how they pollute the environment is given. This report sought to establish the impacts of mining and the reasons behind the deaths witnessed in the industry. This website is therefore very instrumental in providing such corresponding information.