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Mining and You: How Mining Affects your Everyday Life and why it Might not be so Bad

13

March, 2017

M. DeHart

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Source: Kimson Doan

With the push for clean energy, mining has been given a bad face. When referring to mining, many people think only of giant machines, polluted rivers, and environmental disasters. However, what is forgotten is how important mining really is in one’s day-to-day life.

Mining has been an important part of humanity for millennia.

Mining is among the oldest of vocations, with the oldest known mine dating back to 41,000 B.C. In ancient times mines were dug to find copper and precious stones. Throughout the bronze and iron ages mining advanced through methods such as fire-setting (and later through hydraulic mining) as more minerals were discovered and necessary for improved qualities of life. As of 2014, just under 18 million metric tons are being mined annually, without including construction minerals.   

Mining surrounds you.

Many of today’s amenities are created out of mined materials. Cellular phones, televisions, jewelry, and even buildings we live and work in are possible through mined ores such as iron, copper, aluminum, and many more. The concrete that was poured to make streets and sidewalks comes from a combination of sand pits and rock quarries– both open pit mines.

Electricity is also made possible through mines. Not just from the mining byproducts that create power, but also the copper coils and quartz pieces that make up the alarm clock itself. Most things which surround a person on their daily life originated in a mine and was put through a hundred careful processes to become the objects (cars, buildings, kitchens, toilets, etc.) they are today.

Source: Karsten Wurth

Even renewable energy requires mining.

Using renewable resources, such as solar or wind power, would still require the use of mining. The equipment for solar panels and wind turbines must be mined, since both products require minerals such as iron ore and copper for the structure and steel and cement for foundation. An increase in renewable resources would directly increase demand on mined materials. Nature Geoscience explained that in order to meet the amount of energy produced from fossil fuels, renewable resources will need millions of tonnes of steel, aluminium, and copper “correspond[ing] to a 5 to 18% annual increase in the global production of these metals for the next 40 years.”

Working towards a symbiotic future.

Just because renewables need mines does not mean that mines cannot use renewables.  Nature Geoscience reported that ten percent of the world’s energy is used for the extraction and processing of mineral resources. Most of this energy is produced through diesel or coal, which gives an opening for renewable energy. Alastaire Dick, the Operations Lead for Sunshine for Mines, explained “For the average mine, 22% of the operational spend is spent on energy.  Think about what shaving one or two per cent off that energy cost would do to your bottom line.” Renewable energy such as solar power would be especially helpful for off-grid mines, where the consistency of diesel fuel delivery could be compromised or otherwise undergo unexpected delays.

  1. http://www.sntc.org.sz/cultural/malarch.asp
  2. http://www.wmc.org.pl/sites/default/files/WMD2016.pdf
  3. http://mineralseducationcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/mec_fact_sheet_solar_panel_0.pdf
  4. http://mineralseducationcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/mec_fact_sheet_wind_turbines_0.pdf
  5. http://www.nature.com/articles/ngeo1993.epdf?referrer_access_token=urSWGrlBiIpuePieD1C0_9RgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0PVO6M0YCbCaQpqCmLYWEu_zXvMNQVaQ6YB8fN-NAYa9rzyp2hjiy4dGoOH7FJ-kpeU26zsK7nqFiKShTgcUJln2lPAHI3xGejDUQ831lwwGou1zIMiLH56krhsYIaYiJ6_43Jefbga7S0i7PJO7CNHEqQtkUB3i-d_8BDsmnlWJ1OwnqwGCfpWeMg0uIYZ0iLu5AbEY6epNkX6u82KeWs9&tracking_referrer=www.climatecentral.org
  6. http://www.miningglobal.com/operations/2131/Renewable-energy-and-the-future-of-mining

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