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Why Quarrying has become a major environmental concern?

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  • Last Updated : 29 Sep, 2022
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A mineral is a naturally occurring substance of chemical composition. They are formed in different types of geological environments, under different conditions by natural processes. They can be identified based on their physical characteristics. The process of extracting minerals from rocks buried beneath the earth’s surface is called “Mining”. Minerals that lie near the surface are simply dug out, by the process known as “Quarrying”. There are two types of quarrying processes done by humans on earth, one is mountain quarrying and the other is river quarrying.

Quarrying Process

Stage 1: Identifying the mine site and planning the map to extract the mines from the operational site.

Stage 2: Remove the top layer of the Quarry site through the overburden.

Stage 3: Drill holes, Insert explosions, and blast the rocks on mining sites.

Stage 4: Transport material for processing.

Stage 5: Process materials using crushing and screening technologies.

Stage 6: Addition of added value to processed materials using additional processing methods.

Stage 7: Transporting finished mining products to customers and partner companies.

Major Environmental Concerns

Quarrying has a significant impact on the environment. It can become a major environmental concern because it destroys the flora and fauna around it.

Land Degradation 

The quarrying Process exclaves large land areas to extract the mineral ore and on the other hand, there is a requirement of huge areas to dump the mine spoils. Quarrying process of change in topography results in drastic changes in drainage patterns and a reduction in aesthetic value. While the extraction is underway, the landscape is visibly disfigured and habitat loss can be extensive. Quarrying destroys natural vegetation by scraping the upland soil and thereby also destroys the habitats of many wild animals. It cleans the surface vegetation, which destroys the humus in the soil which is essential for plant growth. Fine dust particles spread in the air around a quarrying site destroy natural vegetation.

Erosion 

Quarrying in hilly areas causes erosion of hillsides, mine dumps, and tailings dams, which can result in the siltation of canals, streams, and rivers, which significantly affects surrounding areas. Due to quarrying, soil erosion reduces the availability of water for plant growth, which may result in population decline in plant ecosystems. Quarrying also causes coastal erosion, resulting in flooding in coastal areas. In the agricultural sector, it can disturb or destroy productive grazing and cropland. It can also destroy ecosystems and habitats in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. River Quarrying transforms the river beds into large and deep pits, and as a result, the groundwater table drops leaving the drinking water wells.

Air Pollution 

Deep Quarrying activities can affect local hydrology causing the water flow as well as quality. The quarrying process generates a lot of dust which causes air pollution. That means dust from quarry sites is a major source of air pollution, although the intensity depends on factors such as local microclimatic conditions, dust particle size, and their chemistry.  Limestone quarries produce highly alkaline and reactive specks of dust on the other hand coal mines produce acidic dust. Air pollution affects human health, mainly affects on the respiratory system. Air pollution also has physical effects on surrounding plants by depositing dust particles on the surface of plants, blocking and damaging their internal structure, and abrasion of leaves and cuticles.

Water Pollution

Quarrying activities cause pollution of surrounding water resources and groundwater. High concentrations of chemicals such as arsenic, sulfuric acid, and mercury produced from quarrying operations spread over the water surface. This sewage containing the above-mentioned chemicals leads to the destruction of the surrounding vegetation. If this runoff water is dumped into the forest areas, it will create a bad situation for the environment.

Noise Pollution 

Quarrying operations involve many activities that generate significant levels of noise. those preparatory activities are the establishment of the road to the quarry site, rail access, drilling activities, blasting activities, hydraulic excavator truck operations, and product processing activities. Quarrying site involves the use of explosives to break huge chunks of rocks, which leads to massive noise pollution. And also blasting done for quarrying generates great vibrations that can damage nearby constructions like civilian buildings, dams, etc. the use of powered machinery which involves the transport of materials and processing crushing of the products contributes more noise to the environment.

Damage to Biodiversity

One of the biggest concerns of quarrying on the environment is the damage to biodiversity. Although habitats are not directly removed by quarrying activities, they are indirectly affected and damaged by environmental impacts such as groundwater depletion that causes some habitats to dry out or others to flood. Even noise pollution can also have a significant impact on some species and affect their successful reproduction.

Sinkholes

At the time of quarrying activities, overburden at the quarry site can develop cavities in the subsoil or rock, which can refill with sand and soil from overlying strata, when sudden failure of the earth creates a large depression at the surface without warning can cause serious hazards to life and property nearby by quarry site.

Improper disposal of Quarry Waste

Many man-made activities and machinery activities on a quarry site generate significant amounts of waste. Dumping of quarry waste without a proper site can harm the environment, And the severity of impacts depends on the method of quarrying and the natural topography surrounding the quarry sites. Furthermore, the treatment, storage of waste products, and disposal of waste may produce more negative impacts on the environment. Even the chemicals involved in the Quarry operations may increase dangerous particles in the wastage which may imbalance the freshwater ecosystem when the query wastage is disposed of in nearby lakes or rivers. when waste material has to be dumped on the adjacent land, it is chemically contaminated and affects the hydrological instability of plant growth as it is carried to the watercourses and degraded environment near the land.

FAQs on Quarrying

Question 1: Briefly describe quarrying

Answer:

A mineral is a naturally occurring substance of chemical composition. They are formed in different types of geological environments, under different conditions by natural processes. They can be identified based on their physical characteristics. The process of extracting minerals from rocks buried beneath the earth’s surface is called “Mining”. Minerals that lie near the surface are simply dug out, by the process known as “Quarrying”. There are two types of quarrying processes done by humans on earth, one is mountain quarrying and the other is river quarrying.

Question 2: Explain the major environmental concerns of quarrying.

Answer:

Land Degradation; Erosion; Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise Pollution; Damage to Biodiversity; Sinkholes; Improper disposal of Quarry Waste.

Question 3: What is quarrying of stones?

Answer:

The process of extraction of suitable stones from their natural rock beds or layers is known as the quarrying of stones.

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