The mining of precious and semi-precious metals, minerals and fossil fuel energy sources such as coal has long been a mixed blessing for the communities in which operations take place. Mining can offer a great deal of employment, especially in rural areas in need of industry, and significant and welcomed tax revenue.
But the long-term environmental harm of mining has too often off-set, if not overwhelmed, the benefits to these communities.
Clean-up costs are tremendous.
For example, the Gilt Edge Mine Superfund site near Deadwood, South Dakota is in need of millions of dollars of support. When its owner, Brohm Mining Co., filed for bankruptcy in 1999, it left behind 150 million gallons of acidic and metalcontaminated water in the open pits. It also left behind millions of cubic yards of acid waste rock. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has since been working on temporary relief measures with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The EPA released its proposed long-term cleanup plan in late May 2008.
Gilt Edge is just one of many examples of how mining goes awry.
Clearly, we cannot do without mining. That would be a rather ridiculous argument. Gold is certainly more than just jewelry or a financial trade. It’s also key to corrosive-free conductors within electronics and computers. It’s used in cancer treatments and in aerospace design. It’s used in many industries, as are other mined materials.
But we can mine with greater safety and with better long-term controls. Geosynthetics offer that support in both active operations and post-closure reclamation.