Waste from mining can be extremely dangerous to the environment and human health. In order to gain access to materials, mining companies have to remove a huge amount of rock and soil, which often ends up in the water supply. Even if there’s nothing toxic in these materials, they run the risk of clogging and dirtying rivers and preventing them from flowing.
Even worse, sometimes the waste contains toxic materials such as lead, which poisons water supplies and soil. The very poisonous subsatance mercury is used in gold mines, and unregulated can make its way into water supplies.
According to the EPA, the mining industry is single-handedly responsible for producing more toxic waste than any other industry. Its 2004 Toxics Release Inventrory found: “1.3 billion pounds of toxics were released by hardrock mines in 2002 – 27% of all toxics released by U.S. industry overall. This includes 384 million pounds of arsenic, 348 pounds of lead and 4.7 million pounds of mercury.”
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