Open cast mining (also known as “open-pit” mining) is mining from the surface rather than from underground. It is preferred over underground mining when the coal seam (where the coal supply is) is fairly close to the surface, and so the miners simply remove overlying rock layers to access the coal (because it is more cost effective to do so than take on deep coal mining). Open cast mining is cheaper to set up (that is, for the humans), but costs the environment greatly. It strongly affects the quality of the local air and waterways. It also leads to the destruction of ecosystems, including the organisms that live in them.
Open cast mining is very prominent in England, and there have been many controversies relating to such. Many see open cast mining as an environmental liability and as an obstacle to promoting climate change. It also affects the agriculture in England very negatively.
A simple answer would be that it involves stripping surface layers from the Earth’s crust to obtain coal, ores or other valuable minerals (encyclopedia.com).
By another definition, as put forth by the International Labour Organization in Geneva, it is “any mine other than an underground excavation […and] includes related expressions such as pits, surface mines, open pits, open cut and strip mines” (p. 3).
Oftentimes, mountaintop removal is involved in gaining access to the mineable areas, allowing for underground mining conditions not to become a factor for workers involved.
Environmental effects associated with this practice include removal of entire habitats once excavation and demolition of top of mountain is completed. Future effects on surrounding habitats and ecosystems are currently being debated.
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