Here is a term paper on the ‘Impacts of Coal Mining’ especially written for school and college students.
Term Paper # 1. Land Degradation:
According to Singh et al. (2007) the following types of land degradations can be expected to take place in the mining areas:
1. Loss of Vegetation:
Loss of vegetation results in drastic changes in climatic conditions like rainfall, temperature and humidity, which results in disappearance of existing wild life, resident and migratory birds, etc.
There are many instances of siltation of low-lying land around the dumps in the mining complexes, which have affected the fertility and usefulness of the land.
Opencast mining causes extensive damages to the land physiography.
4. Waste Dumps:
The waste/overburden dumps degrade the land for a time period of their existence.
5. Soil Quality:
The standard practice of opencast mining involves separate removal, handling and storage of topsoil and sub soils so that these can be refilled during reclamation of the mined-out areas. Mining also disturbs soil sequences and due to loosening of the ground, the natural compactness of the soil reduces and as a result the soil becomes prone to erosion due to the rain and wind. The discharge of polluted effluents leaches the ground, alter the characteristics of the soil and thus affect their vegetation supporting capacity.
6. Damage to Agricultural Land and Creation of Wasteland:
The Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) opines that surface mining may result in constant decline of green and cultivable area by way of blockage of land for mining and allied activities. An estimate by the IBM indicates that this degradation is to the tune of 60 per cent by waste dumping, 23 per cent by pit excavation and 17 per cent by others.
7. Soil Erosion, Landslides and Hydrological Imbalances:
Locations of many mineral deposits in the country are such that the mining is started by chopping the hill top to the base. In such a mining invariably the overburden and waste material after removal is cast down the hill slope which destroys the vegetation over a large area. Deforestation and soil erosion due to such mining have caused landslides and hydrological imbalances in the Himalayan region. This has also caused drying of springs in some places.
8. Visual Intrusions:
Formation of open pits, overburden dumps and other facilities for mining create scenic disturbances, which are important in the areas having large population and places of tourist interest.
Construction of roads, colonies and other secondary and ancillary facilities in the mining complexes cause considerable damages to the land in the surrounding areas.
10. Tailing Ponds:
Most of the metalliferous mines have tailing ponds, which require considerable expanse of land and also need land for the construction of dams for confining the tailings. The discharge from these ponds may damage the land lying on the downstream.
Term Paper # 2. Ecological Impacts of Coal Mining:
Ecological impacts for mining industry can be studied in the following ways:
1. Ecological Impacts of Opencast Mining:
i. Removal of all vegetation and subsequently the fauna.
ii. Pollution of water affecting aquatic ecosystem.
iii. Dusts and other gases cause damage in the atmosphere, depositing the particles on leaves of the plants and retard their growth.
iv. The wildlife in the forests adjacent to the mining areas migrate. Faunal dispersal due to huge noise and vibrations caused by blasting and other operations of machines.
v. Scarcity of water regime affects growth of vegetation and agriculture in and around the areas.
2. Ecological Impacts of Underground Mining:
i. Construction and infrastructural development cause changes in land use.
ii. Changes in topography and drainage pattern due to subsidence.
iii. Massive disturbances and damage to the surface and sub-surface and pollution in underground water bodies.
iv. Infertility or damage to topsoil due to drainage of polluted water from the underground mines.
v. Generation of subsidence and heat
vi. Sudden collapse of land.
Term Paper # 3. Atmospheric Pollution and Noise Pollution:
A number of research programmes have already been undertaken by different research institutions, scientists in order to assess the air quality status in and around coal mining complexes in India. In most of the situation it was found that the concerned coal mine was surrounded by mining activities of other adjoining mines and there was hardly any demarcation between the residential and industrial areas.
These studies revealed that mining activities contributed significantly to the deterioration of air quality in mining complexes, particularly in winter. The concentrations of suspended particulate matter (SPM), respirable particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) as measured for the air quality index (AQI) were found to be more or less to the status of moderately polluted areas during winter. It is imperative to indicate that the existence of mine fires severely worsened the air quality status in coal mining sector.
It has been assumed that 3.95 per cent of the coal is lost in transit from the mines, of this 1.5 per cent is lost in the air and the balance 2.45 per cent is lost on the land. Burning of coal also releases large amount of air pollutants, as for example, in United States every year burning of roughly one billion tons of coal produces 18 million metric tons of oxides of sulphur (SOx), 5 million metric tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 4 million metric tons of airborne particulate matter 600,000 metric tons of HCs and carbon monoxide, 40 tons of mercury, and a trillion metric tons of CO2.
In townships around mines, the air quality status was observed equally bad, mainly due to frequent movement of petrol and diesel driven vehicles, congestion and traffic jam. The concentrations of pollutants like SPM, PM10, SO2 and NOx were found higher, particularly during winter, than the prescribed limits of Indian standards. However, the overall quality status of the townships was found more or less to the status of heavily polluted areas to moderately polluted areas.
Pollution of the surrounding atmosphere due to mining and associated activities is one of the major threats as recorded below:
i. Production of dust increases the concentration of SPM level,
ii. Removal, handling, transportation and storage also increase in the SPM concentration.
iii. Use of heavy machineries operated by diesel cause increase in NOx level,
iv. Drilling and blasting and explosive fumes also increase NOx level,
v. Minerals and rock mass having sulfur and its compounds may contribute SO2.
vi. Some of the sedimentary rocks may have CH4, this may contribute this gas to the surrounding air when mined operation continues.
vii. Fires in opencast mines contribute heat, SPM, CO2 and CO.
viii. Use of petrol vehicles or equipments contributes HC and lead,
ix. Due to underground mining the exhaust air from the interior contains SPM, CO2, CH4, NOx, SO2 and other pollutants. Massive generators, boilers, etc., operated by diesel release SPM, NOx and CO2 Huge machines or equipment also produce noise in the areas.
Impacts of Other Activities:
i. Domestic burning of coal and other fuels, and open burning of coal produce CO2, SPM.
ii. Petrol or diesel driven transport network generates SPM, NOx, CO2, CO and other atmospheric pollutants,
iii. Smoking produces SPM and CO2.
iv. Constructional activities contribute SPM to the atmosphere.
Term Paper # 4. Effect of Coal Mining on Water Regime:
Mining activity either by opencast or by underground methods damages the water regime and thus causes a reduction in the overall availability of water in and around the mining areas. Mining and associated activities have quantitative as well as qualitative impacts on the water regime in and around the complexes. All the aquifers, including the water table aquifer, above the mineral deposit to be extracted are damaged because for exposing the mineral for extraction the over burden (OB) rocks are removed.
Water in the nearby water bodies gets polluted due to leaching from overburden dumps, discharge of pumped out line water, and other activities in the vicinity of the water bodies. During rainy seasons the run-off water from the areas surrounding the mines may carry with it a large dose of suspended solids into nearby water bodies.
Underground mining activities also affect the water resources. The impacts depend on the magnitude of the subsidence movements. Due to underground mining also there is a disturbance to the underground water bodies resulting into reduction of the availability of water not only in the mining area but also in the neighbouring areas.
During mining operations there is a development of huge cracks through which especially during rains the surface water finds way to the underground workings and carrying various pollutants from the surface. The polluted underground water when pumped out and discharged on the surface may pollute the surface water bodies. The effluents when discharged on the surface pollute the topsoil and subsoil and also the water table.
These activities enhance the depletion of surface water and groundwater resources in that area. The lowering of regional water table thus may require deepening of the wells in the surroundings. These wells may, hence, supply contaminated water as in the case of “salt-scalding”, “seawater intrusion” or “upward groundwater flow from confined aquifer to unconfined aquifer”. The regional lowering of water table if retains for number of years, the upper part of the aquifer will suffer from loss of pore water pressure.
Groundwater resources are getting damaged due to lowering of water table due to pumping out of groundwater flowing at the excavation site and discharging it creating more of runoff and less of recharge. The polluted underground water causes pollution to the surface water when discharged.
Term Paper # 5. Damage to Greenery:
Loss of greenery due to open cast mining poses serious effect on the hydrological cycle as well as create imbalance in the cycle because the plants are climatic stabilizers and hence protect water resource; evapo-transpiration from plant leaves help running the hydrologic cycle properly and cause balanced rain.
Inadequate rainfall is caused due to decrease in surface water bodies and vegetation density leading to rise in atmospheric temperature. Deterioration of water quality may be resulted because of salt-scalding and seawater intrusion. This serious problem leads to push the total region towards desertification. Greeneries of a region influence the water resources in many ways. Roots of greenery anchor the soil particles, prevent erosion and hence siltation and drying up of surface water bodies.
Leaves of greenery protect land from scorching sun and lashing action of raindrops, thus prevents drying and erosion of land and hence siltation of surface water bodies. Tree litter makes a spongy cover on soil, and together with plant body makes a barrier on the way of surface runoff, hence decreases erosion and increases infiltration. Tree litter prevents evaporation. Plant roots make hair cracks on land that promotes infiltration. Trees, besides these abovementioned two facts together, help in raising water table in the region.
Decayed vegetal matters add nutrients to topsoil, after getting rotten materials adds a fertile cover on land, hence promotes green cover over land and prevents erosion. It is estimated that one full-grown tree has cooling effect of 5 average air conditioners working 20 hours a day.
Thus, plants are climatic stabilizers and hence protect water resource. Evapo-transpiration from plant leaves help running the hydrologic cycle properly and cause balanced rain. Damage to greenery will create loss of all these positive impacts and hence damage to surface water and groundwater potentialities.
The sequential effects are decreased infiltration, increased run-off, increased erosion, and evaporation of soil moisture, increased barren earth surface, its drying up, loss of groundwater through capillary rise and lowering of water table.
Term Paper # 6. Impacts of Coal Mining on Society:
Impacts of mining were started on the ethnic society after the discovery of minerals and after establishment of its mining potentiality. People started buying the land and business resulting in to increase the value of the land.
The impacts are as follows:
1. Displacement of the People:
For opencast or underground mining it is required to clear the surface of large area adjacent to it, its building structures, vegetation, etc.
2. Loss of Livelihood:
People loose their livelihood on the vest land, which is taken for the purpose.
3. Changes in Population Dynamics:
Due to introduction of skilled, semiskilled manpower for the particular mining activities the ethnic population dynamics undergoes a dilution as well as a major change.
4. Cost of living:
The development of industrial and associated activities in the mining area greatly influence the level of the economic activities of the common people due to flow of more money and increased buying power of the people directly. This leads to an increase in the cost of living.
5. Water Scarcity:
There is an overall reduction in the availability of water in and around mining areas.
6. Health Impacts:
Due to abrupt changes in the environment with the introduction of pollutants in the air, water, noise and vibrations people living in and around the mining complexes get affected, causing serious problems like skin problem, lung diseases, respiratory problems, deafening, etc.
7. Infrastructure Facilities:
With the development of mining industrial activities the surrounding areas become equipped with roads, schools, hospitals, commercial market, communication, etc. which tend to improve the quality of life of the complexes.
8. Employment Opportunities:
It generates employment opportunities for the eligible, skilled people among the ethnic population. The Project Affected People (PAP) are provided with jobs, as well as training for self-employment. Other people may be engaged in different mineral based activities.
9. Increase in Aspirations:
When the ethnic people are exposed with the industrial activities, it increases their aspirations; in fact, it is also a necessary for the overall community development in the mining areas.
Actually, the tribal people are becoming addicted due to increased economic activities.
11. Economic Disparity and Frustration:
Industrial and economic activities in mining areas cause economic disparity and livelihood among the populations resulting into frustrations in the poorer clan of the people.
Term Paper # 7. Remarks on the Impacts of Coal Mining:
It is well established that in the process of development coal mining becomes a major pollution source of our environment but it is indispensable because it contributes a large to the economic development of a country.
Mining and its associated activities have several impacts on the different components of our environment Coal India Limited has taken so many proper management strategies for designing and planning the mining activity in more safer ways like “Environmental and Social Mitigation Program”, which has taken into account the environmental monitoring, reclamation, subsidence management, regional land and environmental management planning, self-development and training, etc.
Production of mine wastes is relatively less in case of underground mining, although the amount of wastes will increase as the production increase. These wastes sometimes undergo spontaneous combustion, erosion from wind and water and cause acid drainage.
Nowadays, the coal mining industries are facing a great challenge in reducing the amount of water use and to treat the water before discharging them into the environment. Both the opencast and underground mining have the ability to deteriorate the flow as well as quality of surface and subsurface water.
It is told that proper reclamation could not only return a mining area to its pre-mining condition, but can also “improve” the original landscape. This obviously includes alteration of the surface topography in order to render drainage more effectively, diverting the rivers and streams, introducing new character into the landscape or making the area more suitable for agriculture. Loss of greenery along with cropland due to opencast mining is causing a serious threat to the hydrological cycle, adversely affecting the water table and surface water bodies and ultimately resulting in the change in topography.
Lastly, the process of reclamation, rehabilitation and mining closure are made to reclaim the land in such a manner that the end result is to have a better aesthetic topography with land use that commensurate with the post-mining activities of the area. So reclaim through afforestation, plantation, grassland, agriculture, horticulture, pisciculture, etc., may render the better options to resist the land degradation and climate change.