Surface Mining

Madeline Johnson

What is the problem?

Surface mining is where the vegetation, soil and rock overlying a mineral deposit are cleared away. It's used to extract 90% of non-fuel mineral sources and 60% of the coal used in the US.

Where in the world is this problem most prevalent?

Surface mining began in the mid-sixteenth century, and became popular towards the 20th century. However, the majority of surface mining takes place in North America, specifically in Appalachia and America's Midwest.

How is it harming the environment/animals/humans, etc.?

With all the different methods, surface mining destroys landscapes, forest and wildlife when it is cleared from the mining area. This contributes to soil erosion and complete destruction of agricultural land. Rain washes away the loose soil from the mining into streams, causing water pollution. Surface mining also produces large amounts of waste, almost 3/4 of US's solid waste.

What are the causes of this problem?

Surface mining is necessary to recover some resources, and surface mining is much cheaper than other methods.

What can happen if we don't address this problem?

Mining can ignite coal fires, which can contribute to more greenhouse gases over the years. Surface mining also displaces whole communities, because the mining forces people and their homes in order to expand or create new mines.

What can individuals/communities/the government do to solve this problem?

Environmental regulations and law enforcements relating to surface mining have not been strict, so surface mining has had major harmful environmental effects. If the regulations were strengthened to fight more against surface mining, the environmental effects would be significantly less.