Contour mining is thus a favored method of small, usually undercapitalized operators in Appalachia. People in the construction industry, for example, can easily move in and out of the mining trade as market conditions transform. Contour mining entails making cuts on the slant/angle where the coal seam is traced, to take away the overburden first and then the coal itself. Overburden of adjacent cuts is used to fill earlier cuts, just as area-mining. A gift from the Mesozoic to the Industrial Age, source of London’s pea soup fogs and of violent labor strikes before the New Deal, coal can feel anachronistic in the twenty-first century.

  1. After removing the coal from the initial cut, the operator makes a second, parallel cut.
  2. Across the entire study region, mining has filled a steep landscape with pockets of nearly flat ground.
  3. These differ from one another in the mine geometries created, the techniques used, and the minerals produced.
  4. Efforts to revegetate some orphan lands where topsoil replacement is impossible will only result in worse conditions, especially downstream.
  5. One of the primary environmental impacts of open-pit mining is the destruction of natural habitats.

Deforestation and vegetation removal eliminates root structures and promotes soil erosion, further damaging the environment. Thanks to their size, coal production from open pit mines often exceeds 10 million tons per year. Overburden refers to any rock or soil remaining above existing coal beds after topsoil removal.

Solutions to Strip Mining:

One of the primary environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining is the destruction of natural habitats. The removal of topsoil and vegetation can result in the loss of biodiversity and habitat destruction. The dumping of waste rock and soil into adjacent valleys can also lead to soil erosion and water pollution. Mountaintop removal mining is a type of strip mining that is used in areas with steep slopes or mountains.

Area mining, Meleen found, produced far more benign impacts than did contour stripping. The worst conditions were encountered where contour mining was adjacent to streams below, xcritical website especially around the end of ridges. The short distances and relatively steep gradients gave ideal conditions for sediment and acid drainage into the channels below.

On the flip side, with proper management, the mined land can be restored once the strip-mining activities are over. The tailings (including ground vegetation and soil) can be put back to cover up the site and resemble the landscape before the mining operation. The empty mining site can also be filled with water to create an artificial lake. The pits that remain after removing the reasonably thin coal seams of the East are usually not big enough to hold this additional volume.

This method works best for shallow rivers and streams where larger floating dredges may be ineffective. Miners fracture seams using a combination of blasting and hydraulic machinery. Strip mining uses the largest mining machines on Earth and primarily focuses on removing coal and lignite, a type of brown coal. Miners have utilized strip mining for hundreds of years in locations worldwide.

Auger Mining or Highwall Mining

Efforts to revegetate some orphan lands where topsoil replacement is impossible will only result in worse conditions, especially downstream. Given the fact that most impacts from area mining are retained onsite, and that orphan lands possess great potential for recreation , especially fishing and hiking, at least some should be left undisturbed. The long-term effect of strip mining has been the subject of research in Kentucky, Indiana, and Oklahoma. For over a decade the United States Geological Survey studied Beaver Creek Basin, Kentucky, obtaining valuable data before and after contour mining.

Land Restoration and Reclamation

Coal, more than any other fuel, does harm where it is burned, and where it is dug. Many other environmental harms yield in a lifetime as toxins disappear and ecological health returns. After Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, waterways that had been devastated by pollution recovered rapidly. Lake Erie and the Hudson River still hold massive toxic deposits in their silty bottoms, but their fish and plant life have returned, and they are officially open for swimming. Even coal’s killer fogs pass and take with them acid’s erosion of statues and buildings.

These differ from one another in the mine geometries created, the techniques used, and the minerals produced. Strangely enough, a 1971 Oklahoma law produced effects similar to what the Geological Survey found in Kentucky. The incomplete reclamation and lack of sediment retention or topsoil replacement created ideal erosion conditions, with rates approaching 13% sediment by weight. This focuses the crucial role of topsoil replacement and rapid revegetation as the preeminent needs in reclamation.

However, since the practices followed in these operations are similar to those of open-pit mines, the discussion of quarrying here is limited to the excavation of ornamental stone. Reclamation of contour mining presents far greater difficulties, primarily because of the slope angles encountered. Research in Great Britain revealed that even well-vegetated slopes were producing 50 to 200 times as much sediment as similar, undisturbed slopes. Furthermore, the greater slope angles allow much more of the sediment to reach the channel below, where it eventually flows into streams and rivers. By understanding how these processes work, communities get a better picture of why mining activity occurs, what it produces, and what impacts the process has on our environment and society. Land reclamation remains central to restoring land and natural resources after mining activity.

When mining a century’s worth of energy means ruining a landscape for millions of years. As long as nations depend on coal for energy, fuel, and other critical infrastructure needs, both surface and UG mining will remain features of the industry. Acid runoff from mines also increases the burden a power plant will face when treating water intake.

Strip mining is a form of surface mining that is employed to strip away a layer or seam of soil, natural vegetation, and rocks (known as overburden) to extract the mineral deposits underneath. Unlike underground mining, it is predominately used to access relatively flat sedimentary mineral reserves that are near the earth’s surface, usually coal and lignite. Since the 1990s, half the region’s coal has come from “mountaintop removal,” a slightly too-clinical term for demolishing and redistributing mountains. Mining companies blast as much as several hundred feet of hilltop to expose layers of coal, which they then strip before blasting their way to the next layer.