Questions

OK, Any ideas about the environmental benefits of metal ore extraction?

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OK, Any ideas about the environmental benefits of metal ore extraction?

neilb@uk
My god-daughter's chemistry homework essay is "What are the environmental benefits of metal ore extraction?". All of her classmates got different questions and she pulled this one for talking in class. Now, I'm down as a Science Knowall so I got the panic phone call "Help me please, Uncle Neil!" but I had to admit that this one has me stumped!

We have until Thursday morning...

So far, the only benefits that I can think of are old quarry workings that become lakes and so increase biodiversity, bats nesting in old mine workings and the removal of poisonous near-surface ores such as lead ores.

Any suggestions, anyone? I need for us to teach this teacher a lesson.

Neil :)

Thumbs will be awarded for helpful answers and also for reasonable or better sarcasm.
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    Charvell

    Without metal ore extraction, how would we get the wiring needed for circuit boards for our precious electronic equipment? I'm no scientician but don't we turn metal ore into such things as copper wire, nickel plating, capacitors, etc?

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    Ron K.

    I don't see it.

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    boxfiddler Moderator

    neilb! How big is the word 'environment'? ]:)

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    OH Smeg

    Do you need Neils Translation Services to explain what

    'environment'

    means?

    Sorry Neil I couldn't resist that poke at Davette. She's living on borrowed time recently as I'm told that HAL wants to open an airlock on her.

    Col

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    Charvell

    would we live our daily lives and use our super computers to continue to process climate scenarios so we can find a solution to all our environmental issues?

    Or it was an apparently failed attempt at sarcasm, you be the judge :-)

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    Ron K.

    Be dooby dooby. :0

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    LocoLobo

    First thought was about bioremediation, but that's not metal ore extraction.

    So I googled "metal ore extraction". The first hit is here:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/h2432r1501876410/

    which says the most common of metal ore extraction is open pit mining. Hmmm. The second hit is your question. LOL. Most of the others seemed to talk about extracting metals from ores.

    Can your god-daughter ask for clarification on the definition of metal ore extraction? Or do you already have a better definition?

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    neilb@uk

    I've in fact checked back with my GD and the question was "exploitation" rather than "extraction". It would seem that anything goes, but I'm not sure that it helps any!

    Her exam syllabus describes the section as "economic and environmental impacts of exploiting metal ores" and my GD picked up the worst essay title for being a nuisance.

    Not that I'm surprised...

    :)

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    CG IT

    huge list of the economic benefits of exploitation of these metals.

    Go dig out a picture of stip mining. That's the impact on the environment.

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    neilb@uk

    And another one got "Environmental impact" :)

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    CG IT

    strip mining destroys animal habitat. ....

    underground mining also destorys animal habitat because they have to do something with all the regolith to get the ore. Roads are built. Railroad tracks laid. but without the copper, aluminum, silver where would society be?

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    LocoLobo

    fully exploiting metal ores i.e. recyling them rather than dumping them in landfills...

    Sorry, I need a second cup of coffee. :)

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    boxfiddler Moderator

    providing that by environment one means universe; the fewer precious metals we have on hand the less likely evil alien overlords are to be interested in our planet. :^0

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    CG IT

    with a small number of words

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    neilb@uk

    Of COURSE there isn't any text.

    But I made you look. Thumbs don't come for free, you know.

    :)

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    boxfiddler Moderator

    you're just partial to raspberries.

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    Ron K.

    You're assuming they'd be interested in the 25% of our planet covered by land. There's more gold in solution in the oceans than has ever been mined. (insert glasses emoticon dood here) <br>
    If that's not true about the gold it's because I just made it up. <br>

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    neilb@uk

    Why would they want to lift stuff out of our gravity well?

    :)

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    Ron K.

    I imagine that the aliens living in our oceans think that would be crazy.

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    boxfiddler Moderator

    that by the time we get it all out of the ground, we'll have screwed the rest of the planet up so good it'll be quarantined. Shouldn't be too long after that we extinct ourselves. < insert glasses emoticon dood here >

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    CG IT

    and you have listed some of the better benefits. strip mining creates lakes. Underground mining creates caves. but after that, most of the methods used to extract metal ore don't have environmental benefits untill all the metal ore is extracted.

    One that's overlooked is that the regolith that is removed can create hills which then can be planted with trees. Much like county or state run dumps that fill canyons do. They dump refuse, cover with dirt, and as the height rises, they plant trees on the sides to combat erosion. The other benefit is methane gas that is created from the dump. That is used as power.

    but metal ore extraction methods really don't do much for the environment.

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    santeewelding

    We are environmentally precious dung beetles exploiting detritus squeezed out of the earth to form the slag heap upon which we crawl.

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    drowningnotwaving

    Okay so here are some (probably very bland and highly unoriginal) ideas:

    * Ore gives us the materials with which we can build dwellings and buildings - both the building materials and the necessary tools.

    This aids the environment in terms of enabling reasonably efficient urban centres around which we can live, move and dwell.

    ? I have no idea whether Tokyo with multiple levels of dwellings and a somewhat condensed space is more earth-friendly than Tokyo spread out over one layer across however large an area that would require, but it kind of sounded okay. If your neice gets an "F" send me the blame.

    * Without metal, the trucks, pumps and pipes we need to deal with the massive bulk of our human waste wouldn't be available to us. The danger of such waste to ourselves, to other animals and the land or water in which it is placed is significant.

    * Metals and ore have, combined with some tricky stuff, enabled people to avoid the boring and mundane aspects of working in a farm or in a stupid factory.

    Now we've enriched our lives with corporations, SOA, Twitter and coffee machines. That's got to be better for the environment.

    Unless you're Chinese. Then, boring and stupid factories well may be a career aspiration.

    Funny thing, perspective.

    * Without metal, we wouldn't have big rockets and nukes. I think the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction has made the world a far better place to live. That's gotta be good for us all and the environment too.

    Nukes are god's proof of the Arabs seeking to attain Western hopes and aspirations.

    Couldn't do that without a mine, somewhere.

    Hope this all helps,

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    neilb@uk

    I'll let you know what mark she gets for her essay.

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    OH Smeg

    But as most Metals are extracted by crushing ore and then using some form of Chemical Separation to get the useful stuff out of the powder these days.

    For Gold they use Cyndie Separation and provided that things go well there is piratically no gold left in the tailings and much more importantly no pollution/contamination of the surrounding areas.

    Not sure what's used for the other metals these days as it's not something that I have much to do with but from past experience at the Iron Mines they still crush the rock dug up and then separate out the Metal through a Chemical Process.

    Mt Isa Mines does the same thing with Silver Lead and Zinc that they mine at Mt Isa though there is some discussion on just how well it does things for the environment mainly because of the high lead levels in the children's Blood in that area.

    Sorry I can not be of much more help there but if this helps they also use Cyanide Separation for Yellow Cake. Here though they have had a few overflows from Tailing Dams which hasn't done all that much good for the environment.

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    neilb@uk

    As I said, GD drew the shortest straw for being naughty in class. Now she's bricking it!

    I reckon, though, if she even comes up with a few ideas, she's good for an A or B and I've collected a few ideas from the thread.

    Neil :)

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    OH Smeg

    IS that with modern Strip[ Mining they fill in the Hole with the Overburden as they go along so there isn't a massive deep hole in the ground and lots of junk making small mountains beside that hole.

    That's the only thing I can think of here and it makes very little sense.

    Col

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    neilb@uk

    About a thousand or two years ago there were bits of the English Peak District that had pockets of lead ore and nothing grew except some stuff called Leadwort. Since they dug up all of the lead, anything grows there now.

    Other than that then we have the idea that extracting the metal to make a pump that irrigates a desert might be - on the whole - beneficial.

    Who knows? I'll find out when Jess gets her essay graded! :)

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    OH Smeg

    Though if you've got it wrong for what the teacher wants you'll be the one to blame not your GD who peeved off the teacher in the first place.

    Though I suppose if you dug up Plutonium that was not overly too deep in an area you could clean up the Ground Water and stop the location Glowing in the Dark at night.

    Look at Water Contamination both streams/rivers and Ground Water.

    Col

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    neilb@uk

    The little minx took the stuff that I'd sent her and passed it straight on to the teacher.

    The teacher aspecially liked the research that my GD had done on the ancient lead mines of Derbyshire.

    Ha!

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    CG IT

    :)

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    seanferd

    So, what was the environmental benefit of mining lead, then?

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    neilb@uk

    There is an area of Derbyshire called the Peak District where there were outcrops of lead ore that made the ground pretty infertile for most plants and also had a detrimental effect on the local water systems. The ancient miners used to locate lead ore pockets by looking for areas where the lead-tolerant plant "Leadwort" was the only plant that grew successfully.

    Once the lead ore was mined out the ground recovered and, in the end, was a better habitat for most other plants than it had been prior to the mining. The biodiversity of the area increased.

    :)

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    santeewelding

    Has dung beetle written all over it.

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    seanferd

    Of a somewhat limited scope, but an environmental benefit.

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    neilb@uk

    was water habitats being created in abandoned open-cast workings.

    Next time she talks in class and draws the hard question, she's on her own!

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    LOL

    seanferd

    I wonder what the water quality is like in contemporary submerged metal mines, though.

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    santeewelding

    We got one of them out west here somewhere. The water quality, not to mention the color, is so alien, exobiologists examine it for leads to extraterrestrial life.

    This is, therefore, a plus.

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    santeewelding

    By what tortured logic did you succeed?

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    OH Smeg

    But now comes the hard part

    How?

    I saw that question as a No Win one.

    OH and yes I have read the above posts about the Lead Mine and so on but that seems a very small and unique set of parameters when compared the bulk of the mining that has occurred over the years.

    Col

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    neilb@uk

    Everyone else, except Jess and the girl she was talking to, got environmental "problems" which is relatively straightforward to get something to write about.

    This was supposed to be a punishment essay; make them work and then give them a low grade because they couldn't find anything to say on environmental benefits.

    But we slapped the teacher round the chops with a bunch of leadwort!

    She'd never heard of it and had to go and look it up. :)

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    OH Smeg

    She'll tell you that teachers are never wrong. :^0

    I just caught the tail end of a story here last week where the tailings from the old Gold Mines have the penitential to cause major problems. There is a high Arsenic Content in these as it's free Arsenic that has been liberated from the Environment by crushing the Quartz that the gold was found in.

    Apparently some researcher was doing some Arsenic Content Tests on Kids Toe Nails to not only get some idea of the Level of Arsenic but a time line of it being deposited. She asked for Children to bring in Toe Nail Clippings for testing in the US. They then found a lot of children with what was thought to be very high levels of Arsenic but as there have been no studies of Arsenic Deposits in Toe Nails in the past they now have a much bigger study to do to find out what the results actually mean.

    Things like that are the easy things to pick up on so it's Environmental Damage from Mining but finding Environmental Benefits from Mining is a different thing all together.

    Col

  • +
    0 Votes
    Charvell

    Without metal ore extraction, how would we get the wiring needed for circuit boards for our precious electronic equipment? I'm no scientician but don't we turn metal ore into such things as copper wire, nickel plating, capacitors, etc?

    +
    0 Votes
    Ron K.

    I don't see it.

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    0 Votes
    boxfiddler Moderator

    neilb! How big is the word 'environment'? ]:)

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    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Do you need Neils Translation Services to explain what

    'environment'

    means?

    Sorry Neil I couldn't resist that poke at Davette. She's living on borrowed time recently as I'm told that HAL wants to open an airlock on her.

    Col

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    Charvell

    would we live our daily lives and use our super computers to continue to process climate scenarios so we can find a solution to all our environmental issues?

    Or it was an apparently failed attempt at sarcasm, you be the judge :-)

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    Ron K.

    Be dooby dooby. :0

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    0 Votes
    LocoLobo

    First thought was about bioremediation, but that's not metal ore extraction.

    So I googled "metal ore extraction". The first hit is here:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/h2432r1501876410/

    which says the most common of metal ore extraction is open pit mining. Hmmm. The second hit is your question. LOL. Most of the others seemed to talk about extracting metals from ores.

    Can your god-daughter ask for clarification on the definition of metal ore extraction? Or do you already have a better definition?

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    I've in fact checked back with my GD and the question was "exploitation" rather than "extraction". It would seem that anything goes, but I'm not sure that it helps any!

    Her exam syllabus describes the section as "economic and environmental impacts of exploiting metal ores" and my GD picked up the worst essay title for being a nuisance.

    Not that I'm surprised...

    :)

    +
    0 Votes
    CG IT

    huge list of the economic benefits of exploitation of these metals.

    Go dig out a picture of stip mining. That's the impact on the environment.

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    And another one got "Environmental impact" :)

    +
    0 Votes
    CG IT

    strip mining destroys animal habitat. ....

    underground mining also destorys animal habitat because they have to do something with all the regolith to get the ore. Roads are built. Railroad tracks laid. but without the copper, aluminum, silver where would society be?

    +
    0 Votes
    LocoLobo

    fully exploiting metal ores i.e. recyling them rather than dumping them in landfills...

    Sorry, I need a second cup of coffee. :)

    +
    0 Votes
    boxfiddler Moderator

    providing that by environment one means universe; the fewer precious metals we have on hand the less likely evil alien overlords are to be interested in our planet. :^0

    +
    0 Votes
    CG IT

    with a small number of words

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    Of COURSE there isn't any text.

    But I made you look. Thumbs don't come for free, you know.

    :)

    +
    0 Votes
    boxfiddler Moderator

    you're just partial to raspberries.

    +
    0 Votes
    Ron K.

    You're assuming they'd be interested in the 25% of our planet covered by land. There's more gold in solution in the oceans than has ever been mined. (insert glasses emoticon dood here) <br>
    If that's not true about the gold it's because I just made it up. <br>

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    Why would they want to lift stuff out of our gravity well?

    :)

    +
    0 Votes
    Ron K.

    I imagine that the aliens living in our oceans think that would be crazy.

    +
    0 Votes
    boxfiddler Moderator

    that by the time we get it all out of the ground, we'll have screwed the rest of the planet up so good it'll be quarantined. Shouldn't be too long after that we extinct ourselves. < insert glasses emoticon dood here >

    +
    0 Votes
    CG IT

    and you have listed some of the better benefits. strip mining creates lakes. Underground mining creates caves. but after that, most of the methods used to extract metal ore don't have environmental benefits untill all the metal ore is extracted.

    One that's overlooked is that the regolith that is removed can create hills which then can be planted with trees. Much like county or state run dumps that fill canyons do. They dump refuse, cover with dirt, and as the height rises, they plant trees on the sides to combat erosion. The other benefit is methane gas that is created from the dump. That is used as power.

    but metal ore extraction methods really don't do much for the environment.

    +
    0 Votes
    santeewelding

    We are environmentally precious dung beetles exploiting detritus squeezed out of the earth to form the slag heap upon which we crawl.

    +
    0 Votes
    drowningnotwaving

    Okay so here are some (probably very bland and highly unoriginal) ideas:

    * Ore gives us the materials with which we can build dwellings and buildings - both the building materials and the necessary tools.

    This aids the environment in terms of enabling reasonably efficient urban centres around which we can live, move and dwell.

    ? I have no idea whether Tokyo with multiple levels of dwellings and a somewhat condensed space is more earth-friendly than Tokyo spread out over one layer across however large an area that would require, but it kind of sounded okay. If your neice gets an "F" send me the blame.

    * Without metal, the trucks, pumps and pipes we need to deal with the massive bulk of our human waste wouldn't be available to us. The danger of such waste to ourselves, to other animals and the land or water in which it is placed is significant.

    * Metals and ore have, combined with some tricky stuff, enabled people to avoid the boring and mundane aspects of working in a farm or in a stupid factory.

    Now we've enriched our lives with corporations, SOA, Twitter and coffee machines. That's got to be better for the environment.

    Unless you're Chinese. Then, boring and stupid factories well may be a career aspiration.

    Funny thing, perspective.

    * Without metal, we wouldn't have big rockets and nukes. I think the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction has made the world a far better place to live. That's gotta be good for us all and the environment too.

    Nukes are god's proof of the Arabs seeking to attain Western hopes and aspirations.

    Couldn't do that without a mine, somewhere.

    Hope this all helps,

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    I'll let you know what mark she gets for her essay.

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    But as most Metals are extracted by crushing ore and then using some form of Chemical Separation to get the useful stuff out of the powder these days.

    For Gold they use Cyndie Separation and provided that things go well there is piratically no gold left in the tailings and much more importantly no pollution/contamination of the surrounding areas.

    Not sure what's used for the other metals these days as it's not something that I have much to do with but from past experience at the Iron Mines they still crush the rock dug up and then separate out the Metal through a Chemical Process.

    Mt Isa Mines does the same thing with Silver Lead and Zinc that they mine at Mt Isa though there is some discussion on just how well it does things for the environment mainly because of the high lead levels in the children's Blood in that area.

    Sorry I can not be of much more help there but if this helps they also use Cyanide Separation for Yellow Cake. Here though they have had a few overflows from Tailing Dams which hasn't done all that much good for the environment.

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    As I said, GD drew the shortest straw for being naughty in class. Now she's bricking it!

    I reckon, though, if she even comes up with a few ideas, she's good for an A or B and I've collected a few ideas from the thread.

    Neil :)

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    IS that with modern Strip[ Mining they fill in the Hole with the Overburden as they go along so there isn't a massive deep hole in the ground and lots of junk making small mountains beside that hole.

    That's the only thing I can think of here and it makes very little sense.

    Col

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    About a thousand or two years ago there were bits of the English Peak District that had pockets of lead ore and nothing grew except some stuff called Leadwort. Since they dug up all of the lead, anything grows there now.

    Other than that then we have the idea that extracting the metal to make a pump that irrigates a desert might be - on the whole - beneficial.

    Who knows? I'll find out when Jess gets her essay graded! :)

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    Though if you've got it wrong for what the teacher wants you'll be the one to blame not your GD who peeved off the teacher in the first place.

    Though I suppose if you dug up Plutonium that was not overly too deep in an area you could clean up the Ground Water and stop the location Glowing in the Dark at night.

    Look at Water Contamination both streams/rivers and Ground Water.

    Col

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    The little minx took the stuff that I'd sent her and passed it straight on to the teacher.

    The teacher aspecially liked the research that my GD had done on the ancient lead mines of Derbyshire.

    Ha!

    +
    0 Votes
    CG IT

    :)

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    0 Votes
    seanferd

    So, what was the environmental benefit of mining lead, then?

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    There is an area of Derbyshire called the Peak District where there were outcrops of lead ore that made the ground pretty infertile for most plants and also had a detrimental effect on the local water systems. The ancient miners used to locate lead ore pockets by looking for areas where the lead-tolerant plant "Leadwort" was the only plant that grew successfully.

    Once the lead ore was mined out the ground recovered and, in the end, was a better habitat for most other plants than it had been prior to the mining. The biodiversity of the area increased.

    :)

    +
    0 Votes
    santeewelding

    Has dung beetle written all over it.

    +
    0 Votes
    seanferd

    Of a somewhat limited scope, but an environmental benefit.

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    was water habitats being created in abandoned open-cast workings.

    Next time she talks in class and draws the hard question, she's on her own!

    +
    0 Votes

    LOL

    seanferd

    I wonder what the water quality is like in contemporary submerged metal mines, though.

    +
    0 Votes
    santeewelding

    We got one of them out west here somewhere. The water quality, not to mention the color, is so alien, exobiologists examine it for leads to extraterrestrial life.

    This is, therefore, a plus.

    +
    0 Votes
    santeewelding

    By what tortured logic did you succeed?

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    But now comes the hard part

    How?

    I saw that question as a No Win one.

    OH and yes I have read the above posts about the Lead Mine and so on but that seems a very small and unique set of parameters when compared the bulk of the mining that has occurred over the years.

    Col

    +
    0 Votes
    neilb@uk

    Everyone else, except Jess and the girl she was talking to, got environmental "problems" which is relatively straightforward to get something to write about.

    This was supposed to be a punishment essay; make them work and then give them a low grade because they couldn't find anything to say on environmental benefits.

    But we slapped the teacher round the chops with a bunch of leadwort!

    She'd never heard of it and had to go and look it up. :)

    +
    0 Votes
    OH Smeg

    She'll tell you that teachers are never wrong. :^0

    I just caught the tail end of a story here last week where the tailings from the old Gold Mines have the penitential to cause major problems. There is a high Arsenic Content in these as it's free Arsenic that has been liberated from the Environment by crushing the Quartz that the gold was found in.

    Apparently some researcher was doing some Arsenic Content Tests on Kids Toe Nails to not only get some idea of the Level of Arsenic but a time line of it being deposited. She asked for Children to bring in Toe Nail Clippings for testing in the US. They then found a lot of children with what was thought to be very high levels of Arsenic but as there have been no studies of Arsenic Deposits in Toe Nails in the past they now have a much bigger study to do to find out what the results actually mean.

    Things like that are the easy things to pick up on so it's Environmental Damage from Mining but finding Environmental Benefits from Mining is a different thing all together.

    Col