Coal Mining Effects on the Environment

Black as Coal…

loading...

Tons of coal mined

Globally, this year

See more

TheWorldCounts, 13 May, 2014

Black as Coal…

We mine enough coal to give 1 ton to every person on the planet. To date, we have mined an estimated 2.7 billion tons of coal globally and it’s not even half of the year yet.

How the mining of coal is harmful to the environment

We were so happy with this cheap fuel source that we didn’t foresee or refused to see the coal mining effects on the environment – and they are many – most of them negative.

Here are some of the negative effects of coal mining and the burning of coal:

  • Deforestation is required to clear areas of land and mountains to prepare them for mining.
  • Coal mining releases toxic materials into the soil and water.
  • Bad mining can start coal fires which can burn for decades – releasing “fly ash” and smoke filled with greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals.
  • It releases coal mine methane which is 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
  • Strip mining accounts for 40% of the world’s coal mines and the practices destroys landscapes, forests and wildlife habitation. It usually requires mountain blasting and the removal of trees and plants in the mining area.
  • Coal mining increases the risk of loosening top soils into streams and waterways and the sediments pollute our water and can smother plant life downstream and even kill fish.
  • Coal has traces of sulfur and nitrogen. When burned, these are released into the atmosphere. While these chemicals are floating in the air, they can mix with water vapor and fall back to earth as Acid Rain.
  • Coal is made of carbon. When burned, the carbon combines with oxygen and forms carbon dioxide –one of the main contributors to global warming and air pollution.
  • Aside from carbon, the burning of coal releases sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury compounds into the air.
  • When rain falls on coal stored in piles outside, the water that comes from these piles will contain heavy metal such as arsenic and lead, which can seep into the land and nearby bodies of water – killing fish and plant life.
  • Coal dust can cause respiratory problems in humans.

More: How Pollution Affects the Environment
            Temperature Changes Due To Global Warming

Cleaning Dirty Coal

Coal is the most abundant fuel in the fossil family. It has been used for heating since the age of the cave men. It has a long and varied history. 

In the 1700s, the British discovered that it produced cleaner fuel than wood. However, it was during the Industrial Revolution that it became the dominant global supplier of energy. Steamships and railroads became the primary source of transportation and its boilers burned coal as fuel. Eventually, factories started using coal too and in the 1880s, it started being used to generate Electricity.

To date, coal remains as an important energy source because of its low cost and abundance as compared to other fuel sources. 

Since the mid-1980s the US, Canada and private companies have been investing billions to develop and improve the processing of coal. The effort began to stop the Acid Rain which was damaging rivers, forests and buildings in these countries. Since the US has the most coal burning power plants, they took the lead to find a solution.

Carbon sequestration is one of the processes developed to reduce the CO2 it releases into the atmosphere. It involves capturing and storing the carbon underground or beneath the ocean floor where it cannot escape into the air.

Rehabilitation of lands used for mining operations is also being closely monitored, especially for surface mining. A detailed plan of rehabilitation is required from the start of the mining operations, up to the finish. This includes the shaping and contouring of spoil piles, seeding with grasses and planting of trees and replacement of the topsoil. This solves the problem of dead craters that used to result from surface mining.

Read more stories on our Environment at The World Counts: Stories

Resources

  1. Wikipedia: History of Coal Mining
  2. Wikipedia: Environmental Impact of the Coal Industry
  3. Environmental Protection Agency: Coal
  4. Source Watch: Environmental Impacts of Coal
  5. Greenpeace: Mining Impacts
  6. World Coal Association: Coal Mining and the Environment

Discover your world

The world is full of challenges. And the first step to change is to become aware!

Get more facts here

loading...

People killed from mining

In the world, this year

See more

loading...

Tons of steel recycled

In the world, this year

See more

loading...

Tons of gold mined

Globally, this year

See more

Be the change

The world is full of challenges. But each one of us has the potential to make a difference ... and inspire others!

Get motivated here

Suggested for you

TheWorldCounts is all about uncovering facts that will blow your mind.


Get ready to discover disturbing and amazing facts about our planet. Alright. Amaze me!

Like us on Facebook

A little click can go a long way. And if you feel couragous, please share.