Impacts of mining on land and water resources

Mining of energy resources and minerals is clearly the running down of a large but finite, and non-renewable, resource. It is important also to recognise the nonrenewable aspects of food production: in particular, net consumption of nutrients and soil as well as the direct and embodied (manufactured capital, for example) energy sources required to convert the soil and water into food (and fibre). The notion that land is being consumed by mining and not by food and fibre production is inaccurate and largely unhelpful if one is to take a whole system view of resource utilisation. Further, the apparent moral high ground of resource utilisation for food as opposed to mining is also questionable. The relative importance of food over shelter and warmth is not clear even at the inner levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This paper gives an overview of demand for energy and minerals, and of potential to supply, to give context for the Australian situation. Some data are presented to examine the hypothesis that Australia’s contribution to global development is jeopardised by resource utilisation for supplying energy and minerals as opposed to food (and fibre). The paper concludes by proposing that the current battle between mining and agriculture in Australia includes a significant emotional component. This is based on the romantic vision of ploughed and green fields tenderly stewarded by salt-ofthe- earth folk, in contrast to images of earth rent asunder by the ravages of mining under the assault of savages.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-27

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