Getting tons and tons of metal ore from deep below the surface of our Earth is no easy task. Humanity thrived where metal was prevalent and for most of early history humans only had to walk among their fields to find chunks of iron, copper, or tin ore. Those surface deposits would eventually run out and civilizations developed ways to dig holes into the ground or use caves. Centuries would pass until the start of the Industrial revolution where advances in ore extraction would explode (pun intended). Copper prevailed as the most important metal during the age of electrification. But to produce electricity you would need the coal that was burned in the power plants. Coal was in abundance up and down the east coast and mining it was not that difficult, or that is what was thought. The consequences were not as much environmental as they were humanitarian. Those working in the coal mines developed “black lung” due to the inhalation of coal dust in the mines. Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a process used primarily in the upper east coast region that cuts the tops off mountains to access coal instead of blasting tunnels into the side. But this technique degrades surrounding landscapes both visually and ecologically. Water runoff and the habitats of animals are the most heavily impacted.
In my eyes, mining is a necessary evil. Our lives are lived with metal intertwined into the fabric of modern society with telecommunications and infrastructure. For us to massively cut back mining would bring the world to standstill. It can be said many mines have been closing in the last 30 years but only due to regulatory restrictions. And for those of you who would say recycle! Recycle! Recycle! I say to you, not everything can be recycled or done in a manner hat the element is still pure enough to do its job. The town of Asbestos, Canada is named after the silicate mineral that is so abundant in their part of the country. But when it was being mined it was not seen as a health risk to those doing the job of the mining. Only after research was it determined that it was unsafe for use around humans. The major mines in that area have since been shut down but they leave behind scared earth and derelict infrastructure that once churned out millions of tons of the mineral. Major steps have been taken to seal up the miles of caverns that still have mineable mineral so the future inhabitants of the area will not have to worry about leakage. I do not think we have technology to safely mine certain minerals at this point in time. The use of chemicals in the refining process are also something that I see as a necessary evil for the constant production of metals. That being said, I do think that mines should be kept out of or near protected areas. But sadly many of the most protected areas are the richest in natural resources.