Extractive Industries

Extractive industries refer to concerns involved in the mining and processing of non-renewable resources, typically oil, gas, metals, and minerals. Mining has a long history beginning with the excavation of stone, clay and metals in order to produce both necessities and luxury goods. The most common excavation methods practiced for thousands of years are still employed today, namely the surface and sub-surface mining of ore deposits contained in sand, gravel or rock. The disaggregation and processing of metals and minerals usually involves various mechanical, hydraulic, and chemical separation procedures. Surface mining entails the removal of vegetation, soil and bedrock to extract ore deposits through a variety of well-known techniques including strip mining, quarrying, open-pit mining, and mountaintop removal. Sub-surface mining consists of digging or blasting tunnels deep into the earth and bringing ore deposits to the surface. There are a wide variety of techniques that distinguish the various methods bywhich deposits are removed and the mechanisms employed to maintain sufficient structural integrity to continue operations.

Surface mining can result in the loss of biodiversity and soil erosion that destroys or degrades wildlife habitat, fisheries, grazing and agricultural lands. If protective measures are not taken, mining can adversely impact ecosystem processes by contaminating surrounding surface and groundwater with high concentrations of chemicals (e.g. arsenic, cyanide, ammonia, sulfuric acid, etc.) used in the mining process. In addition, dissolved heavy metal (e.g. lead and cadmium) contamination can occur when the water in the mines seeps into the groundwater. The storage of tailings (liquid or solid waste) in artificial ponds or dams also poses a number of environmental risks if there are failures in containment. In some developing countries, “submarine tailing disposal” which involves pumping mining waste to the sea floor can have significant negative impacts on coastal ecosystems as toxins disperse and migrate up through the food chain.



(photos courtesy of the Pembina Institute)

Oil Sands Watch
Quenching the U.S. Thirst for Oil
Measuring the Environmental Cost
Boreal Forest/Native Peoples Threatened
Oil Reserves Second to Saudi Arabia
Alberta’s Boreal Forest


Chiles Approves Andes Gold Project
A Threat to Sustainability
Water More Precious than Gold
A Proposed Gold Mine in Chile and Argentina has Emails Flying
Barrick Gold Faces Determined Opposition
Pascua Lama Background

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