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In the name of development, humans have exploited many resources to build infrastructure and expand industries over the last few centuries. Most of the time, they weren’t executed with ecological wisdom. It doesn’t mean that humans can’t utilize what nature has to offer, instead we learn how to work with the earth, and try to think that nature is one with humans. Thus, it becomes a mutual cycle of sustainable consumption and production for humans and nature.

Over the last few years, mankind has seen some dire effect from the mining industry. Certainly, only the people who live around the mining area have to suffer from the negative consequences. In that case, how does the mining industry transform the shape of soil and human lives? Water and land pollution, soil erosion, alteration of soil properties at the earth’s surface, up to massive open pit mines that kept injuring civilians.

Abandoned coal mining pits are easy to find in Kalimantan. (Source: Romeo Gacad/AFP)

Leaving a massive pit on the ground

Unproductive mine areas would leave a big crater around 30-40 meters deep on the ground. Mostly, they are just abandoned; although mining companies are required to fill in and rehabilitate their mining sites after their operations end, but many fail to do so, allowing the pits to fill with rainwater and become a drowning hazard. In the long run, nearby residents often redeveloped them as a tourist attraction for its pretty greenish-aquamarine lake. Whereas the color isn’t natural since it still contains hazardous minerals within the water.

According to the test results from Mining Advocacy Network (Jaringan Advokasi Tambang – Jatam) in the open pit in Jambi, the water sample taken contains a pH of 3,4. Whilst standard pH of water suitable for consumption is around 6,5 – 8,5. Low pH means high acidity in the water, which indicates that there are high levels of heavy metals dissolved in it. The water looks clear to the naked eye, but we can’t see any microorganisms or fish swimming around. Ironically, with that crystal clear water, nearby residents are using the water for consumption or their daily needs.

Besides, abandoned mining pits have led to the deaths of 168 people, mostly children, from 2014-2020, according to a new report, said Mongabay. According to Tirto.id, ever since the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) issued the regulations about Concerning Reclamation and Postmining in Mineral and Coal Mining Business Undertaking, redevelopment of mining pits into tourist attractions is a legal act. However, rehabilitation should be a priority to restore mining pits to become like how they were before the mining activities began. If the land was once a forest, then it should be reverted back to become a forest again.

Alteration of soil properties

Modern humans rely on minerals and metal. Most of these elements are rare on the earth’s surface, so mining them requires displacing vast volumes of dirt and rock. Thus, the starting point of a mine crater.

Nearby residents swarming over a lake pit after hearing a casualty from drowning. (Source: courtesy of Jatam Kaltim)

According to Matthew Ross in The Conversation, to reach these deposits underground, miners tunnel, dig open pits or scrape through the Earth’s surface. The choice of technique depends on factors including how consolidated the ore is, the geologic setting and the depth of the ore.

For millennia the planet’s surface was configured by the slow geologic processes of wind and rain. In contrast, mining alters the very geology, topography, hydrology and ecology of sites within years or decades.Landscape evolution moves in very slow cycles, so these topographic and geologic impacts may last far longer than mining’s effects on water quality. 

We need to give some time for the minerals to be extracted again, thus it needs geological processes up to hundreds of years. Economic imperatives lead companies to continue to push for new mines, where environmental controls may be weaker. And new projects are likely to move more rock, consume more energy and have longer-lasting impacts than those that preceded them. Nature doesn’t have time to recuperate and to reproduce.

And because geologic processes are slow, scientists don’t know how these landscapes will diverge or converge in their future evolution. We can see the ancient continental drift in every geologic epoch, but humans have impacted the Earth to the point that the geologic process can’t convey to humans’ activities.

Written by: Melisa Qonita Ramadhiani

References

Jaringan Advokasi Tambang. (2015, November 10). Ancaman Bahaya Air Tambang Batubara. Retrieved from Jatam : https://www.jatam.org/ancaman-bahaya-air-tambang-batubara/

Ross, M. (2019, October 16). Pertambangan menggerakkan kehidupan modern, namun merusak lahan dan mencemari air. Ini penjelasan ahli. Retrieved from The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/pertambangan-menggerakkan-kehidupan-modern-namun-merusak-lahan-dan-mencemari-air-ini-penjelasan-ahli-124752

Thomas, V. F. (2019, April 30). Lubang Bekas Tambang Kembali Makan Korban: Pemerintah Lepas Tangan? Retrieved from Tirto.id: https://tirto.id/lubang-bekas-tambang-kembali-makan-korban-pemerintah-lepas-tangan-dnlx

Zuhra, W. U. (2017, May 24). Berlindung di Balik Keindahan Wisata Lubang Bekas Tambang. Retrieved from Tirto.id: https://tirto.id/berlindung-di-balik-keindahan-wisata-lubang-bekas-tambang-cpia

 

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