While you may not see it directly, mining is an integral part of living. Mined materials allow us to create electricity, build homes, schools, hospitals, buildings, roads, bridges, and highways, as well as to produce computers, automobiles, and satellites. Thanks to mines, we extract resources to support and produce services and other goods that we enjoy today.
Yet, all mining operations will cease at some point in time. Regardless of its expanse, the valuable and accessible materials will eventually be drawn out, making it no longer profitable and forcing people to vacate mining areas. But, what actually happens to these jilted after?
What Happens to Abandoned Mines?
Historically, the common practice was to abandon unproductive mines, allow them to be crippled by time, and turn them into the forsaken and sinister waste sites, forgetting that it used to be a center of harvesting resources and profit-making, like what happened in Gilman in Colorado and Hashima Island in Japan.
In reality, a mine must be closed after serving its purpose and the site it is located within must be restored to its initial state. However, cleaning and bring back old mine entails huge costs that range to billions. With such a hefty expense, the majority of the mining corporations chose to abandon mines and their surrounding area to save up on the cost.
Across the years, these mines are left as is, leased, or have their records lost with no one held responsible for their restoration. As such, abandoned mines become more than what meets the eyes as they start to pose risks not only to the people but to the environment.
Aside from the evident damage brought by mining in the local area, operations have the capacity to leave the metal and mineral sediments on the soil or transported by wind or water. What’s scary is that these elements will not biodegrade and will remain in the abandoned mine unless proper courses to remove them are employed.
With that, abandoned mines are also brimmed with mineral waste products called tailings that are usually dumped near water sources, polluting and contaminating the water body, killing all life forms, and entering waterways, creating contamination risks for humans and other wildlife. Air quality is also affected as mines and abandoned ones are rich in dust or particulate matter or radioactive materials, which can pose health issues if a person is exposed.
Though abandoned mines are enticing attractions for those who love the great outdoors, experts warn people about visiting these areas. Abandoned mines are neglected, meaning their facilities are not maintained. Over time, it falls into disrepair and all equipment will corrode, ceilings and walls become unstable and vulnerable to collapse, rock support weakens or decays, which are all sources of physical hazards.
Fortunately, projects utilizing new technology are now being carried to address the problems caused by abandoned mines and address all the environments and physical hazards it creates after their neglect. Once all risks are removed, the area is reclaimed, old facilities and buildings are restored, and vegetation is brought in once again to preserve the history and these abandoned mines.