Effects & Impacts

Health Effects

Exposure to airborne pollutants from metal processing and smelting can lead to various acute and chronic diseases.

Initial sudden exposure can lead to an irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

More serious and chronic effects are heart and lung problems, and even premature death.

Heavy metals also pose chronic health risks including bioaccumulation of toxic elements in organisms, which can result into birth defects, kidney and liver problems, gastrointestinal tract issues, joint pain, as well as nervous, respiratory and reproductive system damage.

Source: Industrial Mining Activities (2008 Report: The World’s Worst Pollution Problems: The Top Ten of the Toxic Twenty)

A number of health effects may result from active mine pollution depending on the specific substances present and their concentrations in air, soil, food or water.

Unless a major accident occurs, the effects are often chronic in nature and include

irritation of eyes, throat, nose, skin;

diseases of the digestive tract, respiratory system, blood circulation system, kidney, liver;

a variety of cancers; nervous system damage; developmentalproblems; and birth defects.

Source: Metals Smelting and Processing (2008 Report: The World’s Worst Pollution Problems: The Top Ten of the Toxic Twenty)

Irreversible Adverse Effects

Death and injuries due to cave-ins, explosions, hazardous gases, toxic fumes, floods and landslides

Unacceptable Environmental Impacts of Mining


Permanent alteration of terrain

Stripping of vegetation

Mine waste and tailings causing water pollution to streams, rivers and seas

Soil erosion causing floods and landslides

Affects surface water bodies thus disrupting the agri-economic-based settlement

Acid Mine Drainage

Air pollution due to uncontrollable toxic and hazardous gases

Pollution of water bodies results from three primary factors:


acid drainage

metals deposition