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. 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
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
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.
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
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,
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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