GSA Medals & Awards

E.B. Burwell, Jr., Award

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All 2007
Division Award Recipients

Presented to Fred G. Bell and Laurance J. Donnelly

for Bell, F.G., and Donnelly, L.J., 2006, Mining and its Impact on the Environment: New York, Taylor & Francis Group, 547 p.

Fred G. Bell
Fred G. Bell
British Geological Survey

Laurance J. Donnelly
Laurance J. Donnelly
Deanway Technology Centre


 Citation by Allen W. Hatheway

To date, 35 years into the Environmental Era, there has been no comprehensive, single-source summarization of the systematic nature of the geologically-based environmental impacts of mining. This book is long overdue and Bell and Donnelly, with their obvious qualifications, have built their assessment by explaining the physical processes of mining as they affect the environment of the host ground and of the ground upon the mineral process wastes are disposed. They accomplish this in ten chapters, each of which offers the reader a description of the situation and information related to appropriate environmental response. The authors complement one another in nature and breadth of experience. Bell is known for his outstanding command of the literature and of the properties of earth materials, while Donnelly, has had a rigorous career of practice in geology applied to mining, and so adds the dimension of environmental awareness upon the mining industry. The book is well illustrated with images of relevance to the text and with useful maps, vertical sections and drawings, along with appropriate references at the end of each chapter. The reader will be well served who makes use of the text to identify physical and chemical parameters and geologic influences that may be present for individual projects. A special benefit of the book will be to help identify and tabulate special considerations for presentation in competitive consulting-project proposals, so that the reader will be able to show a special understanding to conduct geological planning or remediation in connection with mining.

Mining and its Impact on the Environment, 2006: Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York City, by Fred G. Bell and Laurance J. Donnelly, 547 p., hardbound ISBN 0-415-28644-1

 top 2007 E.B. Burwell, Jr., Award - Response by Fred G. Bell and Laurance J. Donnelly

We were somewhat surprised and obviously highly honoured to receive the E.B. Burwell Jr. Award for 2007. As such, we would like to thank both the Awards Committee and the Engineering Geology Division of the Geological Society of America for conferring this Award on us. In addition, we would like to thank Allen Hatheway for his citation and efforts on our behalf.

Both of us have been professionally involved with mining problems and hazards for many years. Consequently, it was felt that a book on mining and its impact on the environment was needed, firstly, because of the diversity of the different hazards associated with mining throughout the world, and secondly, as far as the authors are aware, there is no book available today that covers this wide range of problems. In other words, no book provides a survey, in particular, of various aspects of subsidence, of waste disposal, pollution, contamination and dereliction as caused by different types of mining, together with their investigation and treatment. In addition, topics such as spontaneous combustion, fault reactivation, mine closures, mine effluents, acid mine drainage, heap leaching, gases, induced seismicity and landslides associated with subsidence also are included within the text. Furthermore, it is felt that many civil engineers, mining engineers, geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists, mining geologists, environmental scientists and managers, hydrologists, hydrogeologists, utilities engineers, builders, mineral surveyors, conveyance lawyers, insurance officers, land owners, and planners are not necessarily familiar with the wide range of ground problems and hazards that arise from or are associated with mining.

Many urban and industrial areas owe their location to the presence of mineral deposits, especially to that of coal that provided the energy and/or acted as raw material. Moreover, many of these areas are undergoing re-development and so those involved with re-development are likely to face some of these mining problems. But mining problems are not just associated with some urban and industrial areas, they can occur in rural areas where minerals are being or have been worked.

Most individuals today are more conscious of their environment than in the past and they are interested especially in those factors that degrade the environment. Mining is one of those factors. Mining refers to the process of extraction or abstraction of mineral deposits from the Earth. In this context, it also involves the abstraction of oil, gas, water and brine from the ground. Furthermore, mining represents one of man’s earliest activities reaching back into palaeolithic times and accordingly it has played an important role in the development of civilization. As technology has developed, so mining has had an increasing impact on the environment. What is more, mining, although obviously highly localized, is an activity that has and is going on more or less worldwide. With time, the use of minerals has increased in both volume and variety in order to meet a greater range of purposes and demand by society. Hence, present day society is more dependent on the minerals industry than in the past. In fact, it can be claimed that every material thing in society is either directly derived from a mineral product or is produced with the aid of mineral derivatives such as steel, energy or fertilizers. Indeed, the exploitation of minerals is fundamental to society now and will continue to be in the future. In other words, the mining of minerals contributes to the sustained economic progress of developed nations, and helps to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life of people in developing countries.

It is the working and processing of mineral deposits that gives rise to environmental damage. This can mean that land is disturbed, that the topography is changed and that the hydrogeological conditions are affected adversely. However, the degree of impact that mining has on the environment varies depending on the mineral worked, the method of working, and the location and size of the working.

In the past the mining industry frequently showed a lack of concern for the environment. This does not necessarily imply that society was not aware of the environmental problems that could be associated with mining. For instance, Agricola (1556) referred to environmental problems created by mining such as the devastation of fields and the pollution of streams. Today, however, the greater awareness of the importance of the environment has led to tighter legislation being imposed by many countries to lessen the impact of mining. This is especially the case in the developed, more affluent nations. Unfortunately, many poorer countries, in which the primary minerals industry is proportionately of greater economic importance, are reluctant to impose non-essential restrictions on their principal earners of wealth and foreign exchange. What is more, the concept of reclamation of a site after mining operations have ceased, has become entrenched in law in the developed countries. An environmental impact assessment is necessary prior to the development of any new mine and an environmental management programme has to be produced to show how the mine will operate. Plans for reclamation of the mine site have to be made. Although the adverse impacts on the environment should be minimized, some environmental degradation due to mining is inescapable. Land that has become derelict or blighted by past mining activity can be reclaimed. Mining therefore can be looked upon as one of the stages in the sequential use of land.

Mineral deposits represent a finite resource, when they become exhausted or uneconomic to work, then the associated mines close. Hence, mining also can have social impacts on the environment in that communities grow up around mines and can suffer, and even may die, when the mines close. Nonetheless, land that has become spoiled by mining activity generally can be rehabilitated but at a cost. This cost may be recovered indirectly by the benefit that a more attractive environment brings to the area so affected.

Consequently, the primary objective for writing this book was to provide an overview of various aspects of mining and how they affect the surrounding environment, and, just as importantly, how they can be investigated and subsequently dealt with. As such, it is hoped that it will be of value to those who are involved with the development or redevelopment of mining areas throughout the world.

Finally, we would once again like to express our sincere appreciation to the Geological Society of America and the Engineering Division for this prestigious E.B. Burwell Jr., Award.