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Mining companies, the World Bank, and other international agencies now promote what they call "sustainable mining." But large-scale mining is always destructive and the amount of minerals that can be mined safely is limited. Mining is a "boom and bust" industry, meaning there may be great wealth when a new mineral deposit is discovered, but this is followed by great poverty when the minerals are gone. As yet, there has been no such thing as "sustainable mining," and since minerals are not a renewable resource, truly "sustainable mining" is an impossibility.
However, mining can be done in ways that are less destructive to workers and communities.
All mine operations should include a plan to protect the environment and support community needs. Mining companies want to take out as much wealth as possible with as little cost, so community pressure will be necessary to force mining operations to develop these kinds of plans. For any plan to be effective, people from nearby communities must be involved in all decision-making. A responsible plan will include:
- an environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out with the participation of the communities that will be affected.
- social services such as health clinics and schools, and providing safe drinking water, sanitation, and other necessary services.
- long-term, comprehensive health care for miners, their families, and affected communities.
- a plan for closing mines, restoring land, and providing job training and safe, sustainable work for those who worked in the mines.