Agriculture and Mining: Can They Coexist?

Mining is the extraction of minerals, ores, clay, fossil fuels, gravel and stone, among other commodities. The increase in demand for minerals, such as gold and silver, has influenced a steady rise in metal mining and mineral extraction from the ore over the years. The mining industry provides different industries with raw materials by a variety of entities like Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU) (TSX: EFR). Take for instance, the steel and iron industries who use mineral ore as a raw material for their operations. The finished products of these industries are used as raw materials in other industries as the industrial system encompasses several inputs, processes as well as outputs.

The agricultural industry on the other hand, is one of the most essential industries in the world.  This industry predominantly thrives on fertile land and water resources. Agricultural produce demand is significantly increasing due to the population surge. It is noted that the world market is inclined to pay more for organically grown products with an abundance of nutrients and vitamins.

Both of these industries need natural resources such as land and water sources, thereby introducing a conflict between the two industries. This is because the mining industry often limits the quality of the land able to be used as it strips away minerals, leaving it worthless and unsuitable for agriculture.

How do mining activities affect agricultural lands?

Due to the water and air pollution that occurs in mining sites, agricultural land close to these sites may experience low productivity with regard to both quantity and quality. For example, acid rain resulting from heavy air pollution negatively affects the quality and quantity of crops. Contamination of water reserves necessary for irrigation by heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and copper may also occur because of acid mine drainage, which is the leakage of acidic water from a mining site.

It is important to note that underground and surface mining both bring destruction to the environment; reducing soil fertility and polluting the water and air along with changing the hydrology and topography surrounding a given area.

Therefore, practicing agriculture and agroforestry as a way to counteract these negative effects mining has on the surroundings is an effective way to reclaim land. Polluted soil is transformed into fertile land through plant physiological and microbial symbiosis processes. Restoration of ecological integrity and land productivity as well as aesthetic and economic value is assured with the incorporation of agroforestry.

This restored productive land will then be used for agricultural activities, which are beneficial and crucial to the agriculture Industry.

While mining profits from the land in the short run, land reclamation assures that exhausted lands may once more be recovered and made profitable, ensuring that the land may generate profits for generations to come in the long run. For instance, many African countries with fertile land, rich in minerals have mining and agriculture contributing equally to their economic growth. It is therefore practical to agree that both industries can both be profitable and exist side by side.

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