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Mine wastes and human health

June 15, 2011

Historical mining and mineral processing have been linked definitively to health problems resulting from occupational and environmental exposures to mine wastes. Modern mining and processing methods, when properly designed and implemented, prevent or greatly reduce potential environmental health impacts. However, particularly in developing countries, there are examples of health problems linked to recent mining. In other cases, recent mining has been blamed for health problems but no clear links have been found. The types and abundances of potential toxicants in mine wastes are predictably influenced by the geologic characteristics of the deposit being mined. Hence, Earth scientists can help understand, anticipate, and mitigate potential health issues associated with mining and mineral processing.