Life is a cycle, and there are pillars that balance the power of nature. We give Mother Nature a gift and in return is rewards us with good and healthy life. The gift we give nature is taking good care of it. This means that the activities we engage in that effect, Mother Nature also affects us. Coal mining has been practiced for years to provide energy. Although, we the current state of global warming and environmental deterioration policies has been formulated to regulate coal mining but is it enough? The USA has some of the world’s biggest coal reserves some of which are doing business as usual. Are we killing our source of survival?
More than 40% of the electricity used in America comes from coal. The USA is also the biggest exporter of coal in the world with its most major clients being countries like China. The search and use of clean energy are popular, but coal energy remains on top with its demand gradually rising. Powder River coal mine located in Northeast Wyoming is one of the biggest coal mines in the world. It produces more than 140 million tons of coal each year. That is just one coal mine, and the United States is full of coal mines that produce tons of ‘black gold.'
Effects of Coal Mining on Environment
There are so many reasons that indicate how coal mining degrades the environment and as a result, we make our source of life bleed. We are searching for better life and improving our lifestyles, but our activities are slowly draining life from us.
Acid Mine Drainage
Our water reserves are not safe anymore. Mining exposes some rocks that nature had a good reason to hide beneath the ground. These rocks are rich in Sulphur which also contain the pyrite mineral. The rock reacts with air and water to form sulphuric acid. The dilute compounds are then washed away to our streams that are located near the mines. Water bodies channel one to another and the contaminated water finds its way to larger water reserves far from the mine. The acid water imbalances the pH of the water reserves causing devastating impacts on aquatic life. Mosses and plankton start to die, and this is a source of food for a wide variety of aquatic life. The aquatic life is not the only thing affected by acid mine drainage. Human lives are also at great risk when we drink acidic water. Most of the populations near coal mines suffer from gastrointestinal upset, skin and eye irritation among other health disorders. This may be mainly attributed to the low pH of the water and traces of metals.
The Mother Nature protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. The ozone layer is composed of gasses that absorb radiation from the sun. Coal mining, on the other hand, is not very friendly to the ozone layer. It releases methane which deteriorates the ozone layer and may result in a hole in the stratosphere. This reduces the greenhouse effect. The gasses from coal mining activity also cause air pollution and harmful chemical exposed to the environment. Miners use bombs to break huge rocks, and some of the rocks contain toxins such as selenium, mercury, and fluorine. This kills the clean air that Mother Nature provides us and as a result, we experience cardiopulmonary complications and lung damage from inhaling toxic gasses.
Depiction of Top Fertile Soils
Plants depend on fertile soils to germinate. The ecosystem depends on one another and plants play a great role in the survival of other living organisms. Deforestation is done in the mountains, and the wildlife is pushed further to their limits. It becomes hard for them to survive thus making some species extinct. Apart from providing food plants also provide habitats for a wide array of wildlife species, and they also purify the air. So removing the top soil during coal mining does not only waste the earth but also risks some species from being extinct. The patches that coal mines leave behind are barren and cannot be reproductive for any agricultural activity. The coal mining activity in the USA has left over 2.4 million hectares of land barren between the period 1930 to 2000. Most of this land was fertile and forested regions. With major corporations getting into mining to provide the cheap source of energy our land will soon be barren and our air impure.
Mother Nature had the perfect climate cycle that would ensure the balance of all pillars and support systems of life on earth. However, our search for a cheap source of energy is slowly changing all that. People are complaining of global warming while it is our activities which are catalyzing it. Coal mining releases methane to the atmosphere while the coal combustion process releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment. This two gasses are attributed to increased global warming levels thus changing the climatic patterns. This change causes extreme drought in other areas such as Africa and extreme wet seasons in others. Life is put at risk because not all living organisms can handle this extreme climatic conditions.
We know cases of regions with high levels of radiations and how defective their population is. Coal mining releases uranium and radium to the environment which can lead to radioactive contamination. Although, the traces are in small quantities with time the trace of the elements in the environment increase. This can cause severe impacts on living organisms in its path.
We want to make the world a better place for us and our future generations. However, we may be killing our future generation with the activities we are doing now. Coal mining is useful because it provides a cheap source of energy but is the price we have to pay for it later worth it? It may be cheap now, but once we have destroyed Mother Nature we will pay the ultimate price, and that will be with our lives.