The importance of mining is definitely significant to Canada. Mining, is an important industry, and Canadians are very advanced in their mining technology, but during the mining process, there is certain level of pollution produced. The Canadian government and the mining companies have very good plans and controls toward this problem, while ensuring the smooth running of the industries, and also helping to create strong economy and employment. The world of today could not exist without mineral products.
Canada produces about 60 minerals and ranks first among producing countries1. As well, Canada is the largest exporter of minerals, with more than 20 per cent of production shipped to world markets2. In a typical year, the mining industry is responsible for almost 20 per cent of Canada’s total export earnings3 (See Appendix A). As for the employment rate, over 70 per cent of the mines are owned by Canadians and approximately 108,000 Canadians are directly employed in the mining industry4. Mining is very important in Canadian life.
Not only do the products power the family car and heat the family home, the manufacturing sector, the high tech industries and even the better known resource industries are all dependent, in some way, on the mining industry. The mining industry will continue to be an important support to the economy. Mining is taking full advantage of the quick expansion of computers and microelectronics. These technologies are found in nearly every aspect of mineral development activity – from exploration methods, through production, mineral processing and even marketing.
Computers and related equipment now have a lot of different applications in geophysical logging, geochemistry, geological mapping and surface contouring5. At the mine planning stage, the job of designing a mine is now greatly simplified by automation. Through the use of advanced software, geological models can be produced from drill hole data. Computers are also being used to develop plans for mine expansion, develop mining schedules for yearly, quarterly and in some cases, weekly operations.
At the operating stage, this new technology is everywhere6. Both in research and operational applications, automated mine monitoring systems now determine immediate information on the status of equipment in underground or remote locations. Canada produces its 60 mineral products from roughly 300 mines across the country7. Before these products can make the trip from mines to the marketplace, they must be searched for, staked, tested, analyzed, developed.
There are many difference methods to mine for minerals, an “open pit” mine is one of the method we use today. The ore – waste material along with the minerals, is recovered directly from the surface. Drilling rigs are used to drill holes into the ore areas and blasting charges will be set in them to break loose the ore. The ore: first stop is at the primary crushing station, often located underground, where the large chunks of ore are crushed to a finer size.
Further crushing is required prior to sending the ore to the mill where it is ground to a fine powder8. The purpose of crushing and grinding is to free the minerals from the rock. Treatment may consist of gravity or chemical concentration techniques. The end product of the mill is a concentrate, whereby the percentage of valuable mineral has been increased by a factor of 10 to as much as 50 times contained in the ore9. The concentration operation may be complicated or relatively simple, depending on the mineral content of the ore.
Milling processes are designed to separate the valuable minerals from the undesired minerals. Although the milling process separates valuable minerals from waste, it does not actually recover the metals in final form. The smelting operation treats the metal-bearing concentrate further, up-grading it to purer form called “matte”. Basically: The ore concentrates are mixed with other materials and treated at high temperatures to change the material to other chemical forms. The metal in the matte can be separated further.
Further treatment is applied to the final purification of the metal and finishing to the standards required in the metal-using industries. Mining, as we understanding, is a very important industry. But there are underlying dangers to our environment. Mining companies and the government have realized this problem, and regulations and controls have been applied to it. The major environmental problem usually results from the processing and transportation of mineral products rather than from the actual mining process.
Example: when an oil spill has occurred in the ocean, the problem caused to the environment is very big, because gallons of oil is spilling over the ocean’s surface, resulting in the death of many ocean organisms, and in the pollution of the ocean. (See Appendix B) In this article, it shows how much an oil spill can endanger the environment. To prevent this problem, special attention is given by the captain to watch out for other ships and rocks – since this huge tanker ship would have to take two kilometres to come to a full stop.
Moreover, mining also is an indirect cause to acid rain – one of a very important environmental problems. Acid rain unquestionably contributed to the acidification of lakes and streams, causing problems with the agricultural crops and forest growth, and has the potential to contaminate drinking water systems10. Sulphur dioxide is responsible for about two thirds of the acidity in precipitation; the other one third is from nitrogen oxide.
The major source of sulphur dioxide in eastern Canada is nonferrous metal smelters, which produce more than 40 per cent of the region’s total emission11 – where smelting is one of the important processes of refining minerals. Over the past decade, sulphur dioxide emissions at some eastern Canadian nonferrous operations have been significantly reduced. For example, emission at the Inco smelter in Copper Cliff were reduced from 5500 tonnes per day in 1969 to 2270 tonnes per day in 1980.
The Falconbridge nickel smelter, which emitted about 940 tonnes per day in 1969, now emits about 420 tonnes per day12. In eastern Canada, more than 50 per cent of the sulphur dioxide comes from the United States, while Canada’s contribution to total American deposition is only about 10 per cent13. The Canadian government has noticed this problem, and has setup a Memorandum of Intent signed by the two governments setting up the framework for negotiation of a transboundary air pollution agreement.
This agreement ensures both countries control their emission and makes sure they do not cause any damage to the environment of the other country. As well, not only the government is trying to control this problem, smelting companies are also paying a large amount of money to control pollution and reducing sulphur dioxide emissions. Department of Environment (DOE) estimates that a capital investment of $620 million (in 1980 $) would be required by eastern Canadian nonferrous smelters to reduce emissions by 57 per cent. The cost of an 80 per cent reduction is estimated to be $1. billion14.
The environment problem happens in the mine itself as well, companies have added newer, larger and more effective filters on their chimneys to reduce the amount of damaging fumes that previously had been released into the atmosphere. Also, money has been spent on research to plant vegetation on the mine tailings so that the dust is held in place and not blown around to damage the environment. Companies are becoming more and more aware of the problem today, and government agencies are also trying to keep our environment clean and heathy, and have set out some guidelines. See Appendix C).
Mining process, and mineral exploration, requiring access to large areas of lands, if minerals are discovered, mining – especially “open pit” mining – can degrade the immediate environment and have off-property effects on water quality. To minimize this problem, most of the mines in Canada are found in places far from the people. From all of these examples, Canadian companies and the government are investing money, trying very hard to continue taking care of our environment, and their efforts are certainly helping to keep the environment clean and heathy.
Our economy, values of exports, employment rate, and to our everyday needs in society – we are always direct or indirectly dependent on the mining industry. But as we discover, the mining industry does contribute pollution to the environment. Nevertheless government and mining companies have realize this problem, and have contributed money and effort to correct it, helping to keep the environment clean and heathy, also ensuring this industry will be running smoothly and bringing in money to create a good economic future.