3 negative results of mining for the agricultural industry

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3 negative results of mining for the agricultural industry

Agriculture and mining are among the industries which play a huge role in South Africa’s economy. But, the main question at the moment is; can they coexist and what harm can mining have for agriculture?

Because both are important and neither should have the upper hand. South Africa needs mining, but it also needs agriculture to ensure the economy thrives.

So, read down below to find out how the industry affects agriculture.


Water pollution

It's common knowledge that mining pollutes water. We all know that water isn’t an endless supply and that it’s highly needed in the agriculture sector. During mining processes, this is the type of water pollution which is being produced:

  • Acid mine drainage (AMD): this is the outflow of acidic water from metal or coal mines, and is one of the main types of pollution in mining.
  • Heavy metal contamination: this occurs when chemical elements like arsenic, cobalt, copper, cadmium, lead, silver and zinc metal are present in water. Once these chemical elements are exposed, they create heavy metal contamination that can flow into the water source closeby causing pollution.
  • Processing chemicals pollution: contamination happens when cyanide or sulphuric acid is mixed with water to remove minerals from their ores. This then results in runoff that flows, contaminating any nearby water sources.
  • Sedimentation: this process takes place during the drilling mining activities which cause soil erosion that seeps into the water.

All these chemicals are extremely harmful to animal and human life, also raising concerns to any neighbouring farms, especially if they use the same water sources. This is why mines need to have mining wastewater treatments to avoid damaging the environment, the animals and people in it. There are many companies which offer wastewater treatment services in Cape Town. Having a wastewater solution will help immensely with the negative impact mining has on the environment.


Land pollution

Many times when people think about mining and its negative effects, people tend to think about water pollution. But that’s not the only environmental hazard there is, especially for the agricultural industry. As we all know, the land is the foundation of a farm’s success, and without it, it will be hard for farmers to have any business. Unfortunately, mining is prone to causing problems with land.

For example, surface mining needs the extraction of topsoil that is extremely valuable for agriculture. Now, disrupting the soil can be damaging for agriculture as the soil becomes barren and useless. This is mainly because, during mining, a lot of manipulation takes place when they need to extract from the ores, and in most cases, chemical and electric processes are being used. Apart from this, there is also land waste that has historically been dumped back into the environment. Although there are regulations put in place for mine waste, and mines are being forced to rehabilitate the land that has been used, unfortunately, there have been reports that over 3000 mines haven’t been rehabilitated. This whopping amount shows that there are still thousands of hectares of land that are in bad shape. This then leaves farms with close to zero land available to use for their farming. That not only affects trading, but it also affects the employment rate in farming communities.


Air pollution

During any mining process, there is a lot of drilling, blasting and hauling that can cause air pollution. This is especially the case in coal mines as the drilling process emits harmful particles like methane (CH4), sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxide of nitrogen (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO). Miners and neighbouring communities are affected by this, and the most harmful particles during mining activities are coal dust and silica.

Silica, when inhaled, can affect the lungs. Neighbouring communities and farms fall victim to air pollution, affecting crops in the process. It hinders their growth and likely becomes the cause of their death. Livestock can also get ill as they have to eat from the land, causing production to stop due to high, hazardous air pollution levels.


Final thoughts

We cannot say one industry is more important than the other. But, in this case, mining is hindering the growth of the agricultural industry. And, it’s important to realise that even though mining practices contribute to the economy, they still destroy the environment that’s needed to grow much-needed produce. If the land isn’t taken care of, we’ll face exceptional challenges in the food supply.

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