A dragline


A dragline

Being an environmentalist, I am always sceptical about destroying nature in a bid to make human life better. The major victim here is the mining industry. 

Mining in all its forms involves destroying the landscape, interfering with game habitat, pollution, migration of people and several other disadvantages all in the name of getting that ‘precious’ mineral. True, a pearl is hidden inside a shell; but how should we get that precious gem out without necessarily destroying its cocoon?

Mosaic, a phosphate mining company in Tampa, Florida is trying to do just that. Mosaic uses a type of mining called dragline mining at its 50,000 acre Four Corners Mine in Bone Valley-the largest phosphate mine in the world. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorous to be used in agriculture and industry.

During the mining process, a lot of water is needed to separate the phosphate from the ore under high pressure. Ingeniously, Mosaic harvests rain water and also siphons some from deep wells to meet the high demand. There is no wastage of water due to recycling. A protective watertight covering is also put on the underground pipes to protect the water from contamination.

When a particular area being mined gets exhausted, the rugged topography is then filled with soil spiced up with man-made water reservoirs in a process known as land reclamation. The reclaimed land serves several purposes. It can be used for agriculture, wildlife or sport.

In Tampa, Mosaic is using part of the reclaimed land as a habitat for Gopher Tortoises-a burrowing specie of tortoise. Another part is being turned into marshland, which has already attracted some alligators and other aquatic life.

Reclaimed land turned into marshes

Sport lovers have not been forgotten. A 36-hole golf course is being built on another piece of reclaimed land. Water from the man-made reservoirs is used to moisten the delicate course grass.

Reclaimed land turned into a golf course

Some of the land has also been leased out to local farmers for agriculture. Nothing goes to waste.

To me, this is mining the humane way. Taking away from nature and then giving back to it. If humans respect nature in their activities, nature returns the favour. Bone Valley is a perfect example.