The Importance of Mining Industry

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.

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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 $1.0 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. Appendix A Canada:
Value of Mineral Exports Mineral Value ($000)
Petroleum 5,167,589 Iron and Steel 3,606,417
Natural Gas 3,168,733 Gold 2,863,568
Aluminum 2,517,303 Coal 1,868,958 Nickel
1,033,422 Copper 1,323,711 Sulphur 1,134,273
Uranium 841,430 Potash 828,247 Zinc 677,248
Asbestos 412,525 Silver 386,092 All other
minerals 2,636,124 Total 28,464,640 Source:
Energy, mines and Resources Canada – 1986
Appendix B The following attached articles are
concern the damage created by oil spills, and
shows what the government has done to help this
problem. In the article “Worse than disastrous”,
the damage to the environment is more that what is
expected. The wildlife are being killed. For
example, 350,000 to 390,000 sea birds have
been killed after the spill. From this article, we
realize how much an oil spill can destroy the
environment, and this is partly related to the mining
industry because it is necessary to transport these
minerals. For the second article “Tanker captain
charged”, which took place in Alaska, the captain
of the tanker was charged. Due to the influence of
alcohol. The government has taken this case very
seriously, and they hope that from this case other
captains would learn the consequence of being too
careless. Industry’s Commitment Principles
Summary Appendix C 1. Solutions to
environmental problems are not simple. To resolve
such problems, government and industry must
co-operate fully. 2. Government policy in matters
of environmental protection should be developed
on scientifically based need, sound economics and
conservation of basic resources. 3. Many
reasonable regulations and controls are already in
place. Care must be taken that these or new
controls do not become unnecessarily rigid or
confusing and overlapping. 4. The industry accepts
its responsibility to work within certain pollution
control standards, but these standards should be
of significant benefit, practical and technologically
sound. 5. The implementation of sound
environmental policies is not without economic
considerations. Society must judge the trade-off
among economic, social and ecological
imperatives. Endnote 1Mining, what it means to
Canada (Ottawa: The mining association of
Canada, 1988). pp. 1 2Mining, what it means to
Canada (Ottawa: The mining association of
Canada, 1988). pp. 1-2 3Mining, what it means
to Canada (Ottawa: The mining association of
Canada, 1988). pp. 1-2 4Mining, what it means
to Canada (Ottawa: The mining association of
Canada, 1988). pp. 1-2 5Mining, what it means
to Canada (Ottawa: The mining association of
Canada, 1988). pp. 6-7 6Culter, Phil, Mining in
Canada (St. Catharines: Vanwell Publishing
Limited, 1990). pp. 15 7Mining, what it means to
Canada (Ottawa: The mining association of
Canada, 1988). pp. 17-19 8Mining, what it
means to Canada (Ottawa: The mining association
of Canada, 1988). pp. 19-21 9Culter, Phil,
Mining in Canada (St. Catharines: Vanwell
Publishing Limited, 1990). pp. 28-30 10Mineral
Policy – A Discussion Paper (Ottawa: Energy,
Mines and Resources Canada, 1981). pp. 99
11Mineral Policy – A Discussion Paper (Ottawa:
Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, 1981). pp.

99 12Mineral Policy – A Discussion Paper
(Ottawa: Energy, Mines and Resources Canada,
1981). pp. 99 13Mineral Policy – A Discussion
Paper (Ottawa: Energy, Mines and Resources
Canada, 1981). pp. 100-101 14Mineral Policy –
A Discussion Paper (Ottawa: Energy, Mines and
Resources Canada, 1981). pp. 101 Bibliography
Bodey, Hugh. Mining. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd,
1976. Culter, Phil. Mining in Canada. St.

Catharines: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 1990.

Goldsmith, Edward. Imperiled Planet. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1990. Mineral
Policy – A Discussion Paper. Ottawa: Energy,
Mines and Resources Canada, 1981. Mining,
What it means to Canada. Ottawa: The Mining
Association of Canada, 1988. Smith, Pat. Mineral
Exploration. Ontario: Queen’s Printer for Ontario,
1991.

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