Impacts of Climate Change on Iron Ore Mining

Posted on December 23, 2011 by

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth. Mining can result in a number of adverse effects on the environment. Surface iron ore mining resulted in huge engagement of land for Mining & Infrastructure development, displacement of native communities (This a serious concern as the local people are affected due to mining activities in India. Most of the rural population mainly tribal is depended on forest for their livelihood and mining activity resulted in deforestation which further badly affects these people) , top soil removal, overburdened dumping, mine water pumping that results in precious water loss, contaminated waste water discharge. All these worst environment impacts also contribute in climate change. Government of India is more concerned on granting the mining leases for the activities which are not environment friendly.

Iron ore miningMining operations in India are unevenly distributed. Geographical distribution always resulted in uneven climatic conditions. As the Climate change alters the atmospheric pattern due to imbalance in the temperature, pressure and other parameters, mining operations located at different parts of the country can be affected. Climate change induced temperature and precipitation shifts as well as more frequent and severe extreme weather events, will have complex impacts on the mining sector. Climactic conditions will affect the stability and effectiveness of infrastructure and equipment of the mines.  Climate change may also impact the stability and cost of water and energy supplies for example extreme climatic risks due to climate change such as increasing temperatures and subsequent droughts can trigger water scarcity in some locations. In other hand flooding from increased rainfall in some areas can interrupt production.

Regulatory risks associated with environmental clearance hampered the production of iron ore mining in India. The state of Karnataka witnessed the suspension of more than 50 mines in the Bellary, Hospet and Sandur (BHS) region in year 2010-11. It is mainly due to the granting of illegal mining leases.  This suspension of mines was recommended by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and influenced under the non availability of environmental and other clearances. Around 22 of 60 sponge iron plants in Karnataka are closed for want of raw material.  Karnataka contributes 30% of the national steel output, at 18.4 mt annually (Business standard, 2011).

Steel manufacturing industry is process oriented units and unnecessary shutting down and then restarting the furnaces involve huge risk and losses. To ensure continuity in the operation of production units, there is a need to ensure the continuous availability of iron ore to meet the daily demand. If the regulatory risks not address by the mine owners, the availability of iron ore could be reduced to as low as below the minimum requirement and this will definitely slow down the growth of the steel industry (As the availability of iron ore reserve is different from its actual extraction).

Reference: Ministry of Steel

Image credit: Wikipedia 

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Posted in: Sustainability