Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 21: Mining and Health
People mine the earth for metals such as gold, silver, and copper; for gems such as diamonds and rubies; and for minerals such as uranium, asbestos, coal, sand, and salt. All mining is dangerous, and it is difficult for miners to earn a livelihood while also protecting their health and the environment. But there are ways to make mining safer. Often the only way to get the mining industry to use less harmful methods is through community pressure.
Mining is done in very large open-pit surface mines or deep underground mines operated by large corporations, as well as in small-scale mines run by local people. Large-scale mining causes greater damage because it requires clearing large amounts of land, digging huge pits and tunnels, and moving massive amounts of earth. But small-scale mining can also hurt people and the environment.
Mining conditions are very different depending on the location, type, and size of the mining operation. By understanding mining’s threats to health and long-term well-being, and by taking precautions to reduce harm in all mines, miners and other people in mining communities can better protect their health and improve their lives.