This essay celebrates mining - the art, science and technology of getting valuable resources out of the ground. Mining is a much maligned profession. Reputedly it poisons the atmosphere and is gradually destroying the planet. Strip mining and fracking seem to have particularly bad reputations. Mining has also traditionally been a high-risk profession that has killed many people.

The benefits of mining are not talked about so much. Mining provides the compounds and elements on which civilization has grown and flourished. It liberates raw materials from the ground - where they are unusable and puts them into circulation. Mining has literally fuelled human progress - up until now.

My case here is that the positive aspects of mining have ben more important than its negative side - and that we should not attempt to minimize our efforts in the area. Inevitably, this is a controversial topic. The benefits of mining accrue to one set of humans, while the harms of mining are incurred by another, different group. Consequently there's likely to be a lot of advocacy on both sides of the issue.

One of the biggest objections to mining seems to be that it contributes to global warming. Since I think that global warming is good this objection doesn't seem very compelling to me. There are other more reasonable objections to mining - that it causes pollution, that it is unsustainable, that it damages the Earth's surface - and so on. On the topic of pollution, coal is considered to be one of the biggest offenders. Burning coal puts toxic particulates into the atmosphere. Since coal is common and inexpensive, coal pollution is a significant issue.

I don't mean to minimize the environmental costs of mining too much. However, mining brings trapped resources into circulation, fuelling the cycle of life on the planet. As a result of the activities of generations of miners, living systems now have access to many more resources than before, and the results are visible in phenomena such as global greening and the human population explosion. Without mining, the world would be in a much poorer, less developed state with many fewer living systems in it.

Clearly we should attempt to minimize the polution that mining results in. However, let's not do that by demonizing mining and advocating leaving as many elements as possible in the ground. Living systems need these elements - they are made of them. More mining leads to more life - and more life is good.


Tim Tyler | Contact