Iron Ore. Industrial contamination

In the previous blog, I was finding out about the environmental price of making wind turbines. They are made up of around 70% steel. Steel is made from a process whose basic ingredient is iron ore.

During mining, some harmful chemicals like cyanide are used. Cyanide is used to separate gold from ore, and sulphuric acid is used in iron mining. The leakage of mining chemicals affects groundwater. It is a similar case in the Santa Cruz aquifer, which is filled with leached chemicals. From The Water Filter.

Sulphuric Acid is used in iron mining. In nearly all metal mines, and some coal mines, acid drainage occurs because of the oxidation of iron ore found alongside precious mineral deposits. Uncovered by the mining process, the iron reacts with the air and releases sulphuric acid into the water. This process can last centuries. Spills from cyanidation waste are more short-lived, but more highly toxic than acid mine drainage occurring through iron oxidation.

Acid drainage is a little-known global crisis. The UN has even labelled it the second biggest problem facing the world after global warming. In the US, an estimated 22,000 kilometres of streams and 180,000 acres of freshwater reservoirs are affected by acid mine drainage. Rivers and lakes in Arizona, Patagonia, Guangdong in China, Ontario, Papua New Guinea, and at Rio Tinto in Spain, to name just a few, have all been polluted by acid mine drainage. In South Africa, the problem is chronic. Above two paragraphs are extracts from an article published on The Conversation ( by Stephen Tuffnell, who is an associate professor of modern US history at the University of Oxford.

In the US, acid pollution from the late 19th century on Iron Mountain is testimony to the harm we do to our Planet, which we have plundered. Here is an extract from a US environmental agency:

The environmental consequences of mining Iron Mountain became apparent only a few years after the start of open mining in 1896. Fish kills in 1902 in the Sacramento River, near the city of Redding, were the first documented effects, and shortly thereafter, several private lawsuits and an injunction from the U.S. Forest Reserve (precursor to the Forest Service) were served against Mountain Copper Company for severe air pollution from open-air heap roasting (1897-98) and smelters (1898-1907) at the site, which denuded the vegetation for 14.4 km south, 5.6 km north, 3.6 km west, and at least 8 km east of the smelters at Spring Creek. As the years passed and as operations continued, acid mine drainage and contaminated sediment deposits were added to the list of environmental effects. As a result of acid mine drainage, large quantities of contaminated sediments were deposited on the bottom of Spring Creek and the Spring Creek Arm of Keswick Reservoir threatening fish and other aquatic organisms downstream. More recent concerns arose during remediation activities in 1990, when water samples taken from the seeps in the Richmond Mine revealed negative pH values, making the water some of the most acidic water ever sampled. Prior to clean-up operations by the Environmental Protection Agency, acid mine drainage from Iron Mountain was among the most acidic and metal-laden anywhere on Earth.

We have invented wind farms and sold the idea of renewable energy as if this is a benign contribution from the engineering community. Consider what the real cost of sourcing the materials to build these.

Worldometer today:

We look back now on our time on Earth and sometimes we feel proud of our intelligence as we leave our mark with our drive to create our perfect lifestyles which no other creature has attempted. We have become farmers, metallurgist, chemists, scientists. If we find a problem, we are certain we will come up with a solution.

Currently we created Wind Turbines to convince us we can capture energy from the wind and replace existing energy sources from oil, gas and coal, and thus they seem benign.

To me, we seem absurd, with our childish and dangerous imaginations, which have manifested into destructive behaviours. We have created problems with our ill thought out manipulation of natural resources, and we create more problems when selling the ideas of solutions as benign when we know they are not. We have conmen amongst us who sell lies and deceit. We often place them in areas of influence because they tell us what we want to hear.

It is time we all agreed we are guilty, one way or another, of being complacent and not demanding conclusive evidence that every solution we create from now on really is benign and leaves no harmful legacy. We are not engaging our brains fully to combat the lies and deceit from the conmen. We have been lazy and indulgent, playing with all the toys and entertainment made available to lull us into silence. We all know the clock is ticking and we do not deserve any favours, but we owe it to ourselves to push for clarity.

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see
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1 Response to Iron Ore. Industrial contamination

  1. Pingback: Start-up to Scale-up: Do No Harm | borderslynn

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