Thanks to the Beatles' song, "A Day in the Life," we know that at one time there were "4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire." But no song lyric exists to tell us how many holes there are in Asia as a result of mining.
This is hardly surprising. Mining to extract minerals is one of the oldest of man's activities. It enabled the advances of the bronze and iron ages, as well as the industrial revolution, and today mining provides the metals needed for crucial components in our computers and smart phones.
It is difficult to estimate the number of mines worldwide, but the International Labor Organisation estimates that 1.5 million people are employed in mining in developed countries, and 2.2 million in developing countries. According to the World Bank, mining is carried out in 100 countries and is a major part of the economy in 50 of these.
The problem is that failure to apply environmental management to mining, and particularly failure to clean up mines when exploitation is finished, can result in serious consequences for health and environment such as contamination of soil and water, erosion, and sinkholes.
To tackle this problem, a new ISO team is at work to develop international standards for mine reclamation management. Its aims include helping to minimise the potential long-term damage from mining activities, enhancing the quality of life of people who live near mines, and providing a framework for better relationships between the mining industry and local residents.