Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any scientific information contained within this essay should not be treated as fact, this content is to be used for educational purposes only and may contain factual inaccuracies or be out of date.

The Harmful Effects Of Coal Mining Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1236 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Coal mining particularly surface mining requires large areas of land to be temporary disturbed. It causes and number of harmful effects. This raises environmental and human challenges, including, the impact of its activities on the neighboring community, impacts on biodiversity, water and air pollution.

Trees, plants, and topsoil are cleared from coal mining areas, destroying forests and wildlife habitat, encouraging soil erosion and floods, and stirring up dust pollution that can cause respiratory problems in local communities. Underground mining, including an intensive method known as long wall mining, leaves behind empty underground spaces which can collapse and cause the land above to sink. Known as subsidence, this process can cause serious structural damage to homes, buildings, and roads when the land collapses beneath them. This destructive mining method destroys habitat, eliminates forests, and damages local property. The government estimates that if this mining continues unabated Appalachia it will destroy 1.4 million acres of land by 2020.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Coal mining and coal preparation both stir up small dust and coal particles, which combine with other chemicals in the air and can cause serious and potentially fatal respiratory problems like black lung. About 75 percent of all local shipments in the U.S. are made via railroads, which are one of the nation’s largest sources of soot and smog pollution. Both soot and

Fig. 1. A cartoon shows the environmental effects of coal mining (Joel Pett).

smog can cause health problems, including respiratory problems and increased risk of asthma attacks. Coal-laden railcars and trucks also cause soot pollution when coal dust blows off into the surrounding air. Coal mining releases about 26 percent of all energy-related methane emissions in the U.S. each year. Methane is a global warning gas more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide, and is released from surrounding rocks when coal is mined, as well as during coal preparation and transportation.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane has a global warming potential 21 times greater than that of carbon dioxide on a 100 year time line. While burning coal in power plants is most harmful to air quality, due to the emission of dangerous gases, the process of mining can release pockets of hazardous gases. These gases may pose a threat to coal miners as well as a source of air pollution. This due to the relaxation of pressure and fracturing of the strata during mining activity, which gives rise to serious safety concerns for the coal miners if not managed properly. The buildup of pressure in the strata can lead to explosions during or after the mining process if prevention methods, such as “methane draining” are not taken.

A common source of acid mine drainage is abandoned mines that fill with water that becomes acidic and mixes with heavy metals and minerals. When this toxic water leaks out, it combines with groundwater and streams, causing water pollution, damaging soils, and harming humans and animals. For example, in Pennsylvania alone acid mine drainage has polluted more than 3,000 miles of streams and ground waters, which affects all four major river basins on the state. Coal preparation uses large quantities of water and chemicals to separate impurities from mined coal, washing away the wastes in a sludge known as slurry. Up to 90 million gallons of slurry are produced every year in the U.S. In 2000, a 72-acre slurry impoundment in Martin County, KY breached, spilling 250 million gallons of water and 31 million gallons of local wastes into the local watershed-over twenty times the amount of oil spilled when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. Mountaintop removal mining involves literally blowing the tops off mountains to reach thin seams of coal. Then, to minimize waste disposal costs, mining companies dump millions of tons of waste rock into the valleys and streams below, causing permanent damage to the ecosystem and landscape. This destructive practice has damaged or destroyed approximately 1,200 miles of streams, disrupted drinking water supplies, and flooded communities.

Black lung is a group of respiratory disease in coal miners that can cause serious lung disease and death. About 12,000 miners died from black lung in the U.S. in the ten-year period ending in 2002. Symptoms include coughing, spitting up black material, shortness of breath, and eventual hardening and scarring of the lungs. Although some of the symptoms can be alleviated, there is no known cure for black lung and reversal of the symptoms.

Like all occupational diseases, black lung is man-made and can be prevented. In fact, the U.S. Congress ordered black lung to be eradicated from the coal industry in 1969. Today, it is estimated that former coal miners each year die an agonizing death in often isolated rural communities, away from the spotlight of publicity.

Those who are falling ill and dying are not just the coal miners. Everyone who lives near the mines or processing plants or transportation centers is affected by chronic socioeconomics weakness that takes a tool on longevity and health. Residents of coal- mining communities have long complained of impaired health. This study substantiates their claims. Those residents are at an increased risk of developing chronic heart, lung and kidney diseases (Michael Hendryx).

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Coal mining can destroy sources of local revenue, including losses from tourism and recreation, such as the estimated $67 million lost annually in Pennsylvania from sport fishing because of streams too polluted from acid mine drainage. Coal mining can also damage homes and decrease property value, making it hard for people to sell their houses and move. Coal mining has been a decreasing source of jobs over the last two decades and is still considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Estimates of mining production and working coal miners show that between 1985 and 2005 mining production in the U.S. increased 22 percent, while the number of coal miners decreased by about 55 percent. The average income of coal miners has also been on the decline, dropping 20 percent over the same period. In 1952, Alabama became the first state to provide compensation for coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. A few years later, Virginia recognized the disease as compensable, but pressures were exerted the following year and the amendment was repealed. Pennsylvania enacted legislation effective on December 1, 1965, and Virginia again amended its compensation law in 1968.

Late in 1968, a number of miners organized the West Virginia Black Lung Association, which successfully led a campaign to introduce a bill in the 1969 session of the West Virginia legislature making coal workers’ pneumoconiosis a compensable disease. The compensation bill was quickly made a major issue by the Black Lung Association and militant miners in February when the legislation ran into opposition from the coal-operator-dominated legislature. Most of the 40,000 miners in West Virginia walked out of the mines, and large number of them marched on the state capitol in Charleston demanding passage of the bill. This was one of the largest and longest strikes ever on the single issue of occupational health.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: