Materials such as coal and tar sand are located relatively near the surface of the earth. The method to recover such materials is called strip mining, a form of surface mining where surface vegetation, soil and rocks are removed in strips and often times together with controlled explosions in order to make the removal process more efficient.
The process of strip mining is a controversial one because it is believed to be an efficient process but it also raises concerns about the destruction of the natural ecosystem.
List of Pros of Strip Mining
1. It is much more efficient compared to underground mining techniques.
Supporters of strip mining are lauding the efficiency of the process compared to the more traditional underground mining. For them, the cost and safety for this kind of method is so much better than the traditional one. Here’s a for instance: the recovery rate of materials using this method is around 80 to 90% compared to the 50% of tunnel mining.
With strip mining, tunnels no longer need to be dug and supported. The lifting of minerals is not done on long routes just to get to the surface either. That said, retrieval and transport are more convenient using surface mining techniques.
2. It costs lower.
Lower processing costs often mean production costs will not be that high either As a result, the final cost of the material won’t be that much as well.
3. It is safer.
Underground mining poses several threats to workers because tunnels can collapse or they can breathe toxic air. Companies that engage in strip mining are required to reclaim the land they used by filling the areas they removed and covering them with topsoil and replanted vegetation.
List of Cons of Strip Mining
1. It has a negative impact on the environment.
The effect of strip mining on the environment has always been raised by those who are against the process. For them, the method not only introduces pollutants to the environment, it also destroys the natural ecosystem. Yes, companies are required by law to reclaim the land they strip mined but it takes years to get the land back to what it once was.
Also, fragile ecosystems may take years to recover (or regain equilibrium) once they have been disturbed. This leads to the loss of plant and animal life. Plus, there’s a risk of reclamation jobs not being done properly resulting in the land becoming prone to erosion and flooding which just spells more destruction.
2. It can lead to water sources being contaminated.
Extraction solvents are used in strip mining and this can lead to water sources being contaminated. Not only that, excavated material are also dumped which can also affect water supply. Toxins and dust are also released into the air when strip mining is performed which results in poorly controlled contamination. Although efforts are being done to prevent this from happening, it’s not always a guarantee. For example, sealed tailing ponds are meant to hold liquid contaminants until they are solid and can safely be removed. However, it has been shown that leaks do occur and can contaminate areas located nearby.