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  • Nick Cuba

How are the impacts of mining distributed over space?

Extractives@Clark researchers and colleagues in Honduras publish a paper in Applied Geography

A logic of proximity often defines the terms by which mining companies, government actors, and communities engage with one another around issues of resource extraction. This makes sense as a baseline approach, as many of the most significant social and environmental effects of mining will be felt most strongly in the lands and communities close to the mine itself.

Bebbington et al. (2018) argue that the social and environmental impacts of infrastructure related to resource extraction activities are widespread and dispersed, and that a larger field of view is necessary to appreciate the material footprint of the sector. A new paper in the journal Applied Geography from Extractives@Clark researchers, "Measuring and categorizing the water-related downstream risks associated with mineral extraction in Honduras: How severe, and how distributed?", shows that the territories of mining can be quite large-scale through its use and disposal of water.

Mines were identified through analysis of cadastral data and remotely sensed imagery. They were located in relation to topography and modeled water availability, to describe river segments downstream from mines in terms of the volume of water flowing as well as the number of operations upstream. Such a classification distinguishes rivers that are at risk of impacts from a single, local mine from those that stand to be affected by spills or leakage from a number of upstream mines. One question is whether these geophysical differences are relevant to the process of coalition formation between groups of farmers who are all vulnerable to hazards from extractive industries, but vulnerable in different ways.

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