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Is Mining Dangerous?

Tunnels in a mine.
When gold is mined, it must be extracted from its surrounding materials.
Most miners wear face protection, which may include a respirator.
Many miners face health risks such as chronic lung disease.
Coal fires can burn for a long time.
Article Details
  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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According to expert sources at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mining was the single most dangerous industry for workers until 2001. With 23.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers, mining places above industrial fishing, forestry, and agriculture. Just to show how high the number is, let's consider the construction industry. Although considered by many as a dangerous work placement, there are only 12.2 deaths per 100,000 construction workers, around half the number of reported deaths in mining.

Since 2001, the number of deaths in mining has been declining gradually. The US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) now reports that mining has fallen considerably in the list of dangerous occupations. Taxi drivers, roofers, and pilots now place higher than mining. The change is mainly due to the industry's efforts in reducing explosion risks and improving air quality. Improvements in equipment and procedures have also made a big difference. All in all, the rate of injuries has decreased by almost half.

The number of fatalities varies according to country. In the US, it has either remained steady or fallen, depending on the state. In other countries, such as China, the number of deaths is remarkably higher. In 2004, 28 people died in mining-related occupations in the US; in China, the number was 6027. In fact, China accounts for 80 percent of all mining-related deaths in the world.

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Some of the main dangers of mining are related to gas explosions and roof collapse. While the risks are lower in modern times, they still exist. Faulty mining equipment, flooding, dust explosions, and fire also cause a high number of incidents every year. In China, for example, lack of safety regulations accounts for many, if not most, of all mining accidents. Many of the mines operate without a safety license and employ inexperienced workers. Aside from external dangers, mining also presents a series of health hazards. Chronic lung diseases such as pneumoconiosis are less common than in the past, but still occur. Some gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and sulfur, are common in mines, and can lead to suffocation. Many of these gases are also explosive.

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Discuss this Article

anon252433
Post 10

Well I have a fairly decent background in mining no. 8, and first off, I can tell you that mining does not cause earthquakes. However the environmental impacts of mining are potentially very dangerous for the surrounding communities, be it developed land, or natural habitats. Yet since the 1970s the mining industry has been working with the US governm,ent agencies such as the EPA, BLM, Forest Service and others as well as local governments to help ensure that the environment is protected.

Mines are now responsible for "reclaiming" the land they've mined. This helps to ensure water is protected, plant life that had been cleared out is replaced, and local wildlife is not harmed. There also restrictions in place during mining to help minimize air pollution, dust, noise, and even light at night to help minimize environmental impacts.

anon174115
Post 8

When discussing the dangers of mining, I think it would be appropriate to allow cover the environmental consequences such as poisonous runoffs esp. with gold, mountains being leveled in the coal regions down South, instability of land possibly causing ground collapses like sinkholes and earthquakes, etc. I hope someone with such knowledge would post here to round out the discussion.

anon152971
Post 7

I was doing a project for school and I was just wondering about the details for a mine roof collapsing -- like how does the roof fall in the first place. Thank you. I hope for an answer soon.

periwinkle
Post 6

thanks for this article, diana.

i had the same question as #5. I'm not sure if you'll get this message, #5, since you're anonymous, but I found an article online about mining accidents. It seems that most accidents happen from hard rock mining and coal mining but there is risk in mining in general.

anon90507
Post 5

dose the same thing happen in gem mines?

anon69318
Post 3

Who wrote this? the article for Is Mining Dangerous. I need the author's last name for a science project.

Moderator's reply: Authors' names are found at the bottom of every wiseGEEK article. Thank you for citing your sources!

anon49904
Post 2

this website really helped out with a science report that was impossible to get info for! thank you!

anon7011
Post 1

diana bocco,

it's sulphur, not sulfur.

Moderator's reply:

thanks for noticing that. however, diana's use of "sulfur" is correct in many countries, including the US. however, "sulphur" is more commonly used in the UK, India and Hong Kong. in 1990, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) officially adopted "sulfur" as the spelling. several other agencies have recommended this spelling as well. at wiseGEEK, we typically use American spellings.

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