Issues Magazine

Articles about mining

Microbial Mining

By Carla Zammit

Microbes can operate in the toughest conditions on Earth, including among the acids and heavy metals of the mining industry.

The first microorganisms appeared on Earth 3.7 billion years ago at a time when there was no free oxygen and the atmosphere was composed of methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen. They have since evolved to inhabit almost all parts of the globe, developing many systems to deal with life at the extremes.

Some microorganisms can grow in strongly acidic conditions, withstand levels of heavy metals lethal to most other life forms, live in temperatures above the boiling point of water and withstand radiation levels much greater than we can tolerate.

Mining in Afghanistan

By Jeffrey Reeves

Mining in Afghanistan is often portrayed as a panacea to the fragile state’s socio-economic problems. It is, however, far from certain whether Kabul can manage the mining sector to exploit its potential benefits.

In 2010, the United States and Afghan Geographical Survey announced the joint discovery of over US$1 trillion in mineral resources spread throughout Afghanistan. For a brief moment, international news media turned away from the daily accounts of violence in Afghanistan to consider the development. An impoverished country where military analysts and development specialists believe a lack of economic opportunity contributes to ongoing conflict was suddenly “blessed” with untold riches. What were the larger implications?

Putting the Squeeze on Mining Water

By Jason Du

Mining research is finding ways to reduce the water use of a very thirsty industry.

Australia needs to manage its limited freshwater resource more wisely to maintain a sustainable population and economic growth. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that in 2004–05 Australia’s total water use was nearly 80,000 GL (1 GL is approximately the amount of water in 500 Olympic swimming pools) in agricultural irrigation, household, mining and other industries. More than half of Australian water use occurs in the Murray–Darling Basin, even though this area has only 6% of Australian total surface water runoff (

The Social Implications of Mining in Australia



By Kieren Moffat and Justine Lacey

What is the future of mining in Australia, and can it be more sustainable?

The mining industry in Australia features in much of the public discussion about our current and future prosperity. As advocates for the mining industry point out, the materials that mining produces are central to almost everything that our society uses and values:

• coal is essential to our current electricity generation models;

• metals are used to make the smart phones, computers and televisions we use every day; and

• the use of diamonds in jewellery remains a near-universal symbol of wealth and prestige.

If you think King Coal is dead, think again …

By Mike Sandiford

Coal is set to surpass oil as the most important energy commodity sometime this year.

If you are like me, and concerned about the possibility that rising CO₂ levels in the atmosphere are jeopardising climate stability, the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy makes for sobering reading.