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'Mining boom is leading to landgrab'

world Updated: Mar 02, 2012 02:32 IST
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The global mining, oil and gas industries have expanded so fast in the last decade they are now leading to large-scale "landgrabbing" and threatening farming and water supplies, according to a report by environment and development groups in Europe, Africa and India.

"The catalogue of devastation is growing. We are no longer talking about isolated pockets of destruction and pollution. In just 10 years, iron ore production has more than doubled, coal has risen 45% and metals like lithium by 125%. Across Africa, Latin America and Asia, more and more lands, rivers and aquifers are being devoured by mining activities.

"Industrial wastelands are being formed by vast open-pit mines and mountain top removal, and the poisoning of water systems, deforestation, and the contamination of topsoil," says the report by the Gaia foundation.

The dramatic increase in large-scale mining, clearly seen in places such as the Amazon for gold and oil, India's tribal forest lands for bauxite, South Africa for coal and Ghana for gold, is being fuelled by the rising price of metals and oil. These have acted as an incentive to exploit new areas.

"Technologies are becoming more sophisticated to extract materials from areas which were previously inaccessible, uneconomic or designated of 'lower' quality," it says.

"That means more removal of soil, sand and rock and the gouging out of much larger areas of land, as seen with the Alberta tar sands in Canada."

Economies are getting better at reducing the intensity of the use of raw materials but the increase in their absolute consumption is staggering, say the authors.