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Mining is an industry that is associated with the extraction of ores, minerals, fossil fuels, clay, stone, gravel, and similar commodities. The metal mining or extraction of minerals from the ore has steadily increased over the centuries, with an increase in demand for several minerals like silver, gold, radium, etc.
Mining industries provide raw materials for various industries, for example, industries associated with the production of aluminum cans, electronic chips of cell phones and computers.
The Agricultural Industry
The agricultural industry is considered one of the most important industries and it primarily needs fertile land and water resources. With the increase in population levels, the demand for agricultural produce has been steadily increasing. In the recent past, the world market was willing to pay more for organic production and for products that have a high concentration of vitamins and nutrients.
The basic similarity between the two industries is their need for natural resources such as land and water sources. However, this similarity also initiates a conflict between the two industries. The mining industry often limits the availability of land and leaves it unusable for agriculture.
Impact of Mining Activities on Agricultural Lands
Agricultural land adjacent to mining sites has lower productivity both in terms of quality and quantity. This is because of the severe air and water pollution caused by the nearby mining industries. Acid mine drainage contaminates the water reserves that are essential for irrigation purposes. Mining industries also cause a heavy amount of air pollution. Acid rain which occurs as a result of air pollution adversely affects the quantity and quality of crops.
Mining activities have a negative impact on the terrestrial ecosystem. Sometimes the land disturbance that occurs as an after-effect of the extraction of coal and other minerals is so profound that natural recovery is not possible. Many times these lands are left untreated and rendered unusable.
Land disturbances occur due to two main reasons:
- Surface mining involves the removal of flora and fauna above the reserves, leading to a reduction in soil fertility, and potential air and water pollution.
- Underground mining which involves changes in the topography and hydrologic conditions.
Land reclamation has emerged as a counteractive method to control the negative after-effects of mining. Agriculture and agroforestry are sustainable methods of land reclamation. They help convert polluted soil to agriculturally usable fertile land by means of their complex plant physiological and symbiotic microbial processes. Agroforestry ensures the restoration of land productivity, ecological integrity, and economic and aesthetic value. Mine reclamation programs commonly use a number of plant species such as Acacia mangium and Falcataria moluccana.
Additionally, these trees can also be grown along with local trees that have several other commercial uses. Crop selection depends on water availability, compatibility, altitude, and groundwater level changes. Thus, the rehabilitation of mining zones for aggregate production can prove to be profitable.
Mine Closure Schemes
Mining companies are obligated to have good mine closure schemes. In order to restore the mining sites, the companies have conducted large-scale experiments and this strategy has proved to be a promising one for the conservation of biodiversity and agriculture. Such awareness on the part of corporations ensures the conservation of the environment, healthy agricultural production, and successful mine reclamation for sustainable development.
All of this contributes to improving the welfare of the surrounding communities while also enhancing the company image. As part of the mine closure schemes, the companies hand over the restored and productive land to the central government or local authority within the surrounding community.
A Dynamic System of Co-Habitation
Mining activities benefit countries economically with foreign exchange and local revenue. A mine makes quick money in the short term, but mining renders the land worthless for hundreds of years to come. When the land is used solely for agriculture, we can generate profits from that land for many generations. However, it must be noted that both industries can certainly coexist and be profitable. Let us consider the example of Africa. African land is fertile and rich in minerals. Thus, among African countries, both agriculture and mining contribute equally to the economic growth. In Sub-Saharan Africa, both mining and agriculture have long-established a dynamic system of co-habitation.