Mining is usually considered a economic opportunity for any community, but the reality is that local communities usually bear the costs of mining. These costs include:
- environmental damage and pollution
- loss of traditional livelihoods
- long term economic problems
- deteriorating public health
The benefits of the mine usually go to investors overseas and the central government, with little of the profit passed back to the community.
Many mining boom towns swell with job seekers and their families, and nearby farmers displaced by the mine. This influx of job seekers often increases alcoholism, prostitution, drug use, and other crime.
Mining can provoke fundamental changes to local governance. While mining companies sometimes fund social programs and provide infrastructure such as roads and schools, this can displace local government and decision-making structures.
Many communities do not have a say in new mining developments and can resort to violent protests in order to have their concerns heard. In August 2011, Peru, home to some of the biggest gold mines in South America, passed a community consultation law.
Water and air pollution create long-term public health problems for some mining communities. This can force families to spend significant amounts of their income treating chronic asthma, skin diseases, lead poisoning, and other ailments related to the mine's impacts. Industrial accidents involving spilled chemicals near towns can be devastating for communities, such as Cajamarca.
For more information:
- Earthworks Endangered Communities. A section from Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities, and the Environment.
- Earthworks EARTHblog: Colombia town outlaws open-pit mining, bucks displacement attempts from Gran Colombia Gold
- Earthworks EARTHblog: Protests, resignations, and flawed EIS plague Newmont’s Conga gold mine in Peru
- Mines and Communities
- Earthworks Voices Montana | Montanore Mine
- Earthworks Voices Alaska | Dillingham : Pebble Partnership
- Earthworks Voices Kyrgyzstan | Issyk Kul : Centerra Gold
- Ghana News Agency Article on displacement of farmers
- International Center for Research on Women Blog: Vanishing Traditions, Ghana