Natural like air, water, sunlight, soil, wood etc.,
Natural resources are the elements that are already there in nature, provided by Earth without any contribution of human beings and mankind is using them from the existence of life. Natural resources are mainly of two types: Renewable resources like air, water, sunlight, soil, wood etc., which can be available continuously as their amount is not affected by human usage. Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, including fossil fuels like coal, nuclear, oil, natural gas, petroleum, and minerals are, which are in limited quantity and cannot be grown, that means by using these natural resorts, they will be depleted over the period of time or may take millions of years to refill. Non-renewable resources like coal, are very important for electricity and power generation, and plays a vital role in economic development of the nation. While there are many social and economic benefits, the use of coal has potential to damage the environment which includes soil pollution, water pollution, air pollution and threats to human life. This essay will seek social and economic benefits of coal and also potential environmental damages associated with the use of coal.Coal, an inflammable black or brownish-black colored rock, has been the primary source of energy across the mankind. Elemental composition of coal consists of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, fixed carbon and volatile matter (Yi et al., 2017). Coal basins were generated by the biochemical transformation and decay of plant material millions of years ago (approximately 50-300 million) and this process is known as coalification that produces a large number of gases as a by-product (Thakur, 2017). Nations are experiencing an energy revolution across the globe that has altered the economic milestones and international geopolitical proportion (Betz et al., 2015). Coal is one of the most important natural resources in the world, that is ubiquitous and widely spread fossil fuel, and gas is one of the important by-products produced from coal mining. this gas is used in different processes and helps to increase the economy of that country. Local communities near coal mining sites are affected in different ways. As Lloyd D. et al (2013) implies, the industry of gas mining in Australia mainly relies on coal seam gas extraction which is being developed in all states, with projecting around 40,000 gas wells alone in the Queensland state by 2030. Lloyd D. et al (2013) also included the industry in regional areas spends billions of dollars that creates a lot of jobs for communities near mining sites and helps to support the economy of that region. Chattopadhyay, Filipowski, Stanley, and Oguah (2017) implies that 31 active mines in Poland produces more than 100 million metric tons coal and provides jobs to more than 80,000 residents in different areas like energy security, to operate newer and cleaner technologies and mining employment.Development of an electricity and its realization of basic requirements largely depends on the availability of energy sources. Indeed, coal plays a vital role in the economic development of most countries and electricity generation is one of the most important aspects of the economic progression because coal is very cheap, reliable and affordable source to produce electricity and its use would have increased in the future. Utilization of coal mainly accounts for the generation of electricity (Heinberg, 2009), heat and production of raw chemical materials (Chen et al., 2014). Coal is dominantly used as a fuel in the Indian power sector for energy generation (Mrinal, 2009) that was initiated with the development of the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), which started producing energy of approximately 8% in the 1970s which increased to 10% in the 1980s. Recently, in India it accounts for approximately 70% of total electricity production and more than half of the total basic trading electricity supply because of the dominance of coal in the power sector of India by now and most probably in the future; at least for the upcoming 30-40 years (Chikkatur et al., 2009). As a result, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth increased to 8% in 2002 to 2007 and was expected to grow at 5.2% in next 5 years. In addition, China acquires 68.4% of the entire energy consumption from coal out of which, 50% of urban and 22% of rural household energy demands furnished by coal boilers and coal stoves; moreover, they also presumed that 50% of energy will still be accounting from coal (Chen et al., 2014). In China, electricity generation has increased the number of employees from last year that increased the production of electricity by 52,880 tons due to direct and 64,580 tons due to total effects (Michieka, 2014).Coal is also important for the generation of different products of economic importance to boost the economy. In India, for instance, the combination of coal, with lignite, was generally used in the industries like 6.2% in steel plants, 3.6% in cement plants, ¾ % used in energy generation and 15.2% were the brick production industry and other industries during 1997 and 1998 (Mrinal, 2009). Discovery of steel has revolutionized the world. Coking coal or metallurgical coal is essential for the production of steel. In addition, it also is responsible for about 70% of the world’s total steel manufacturing from iron ore. 721 million tons of metallurgical coal were utilized in the production of 1.4 billion tons of world’s total crude steel in 2010 (Osborne & Gupta, 2013). Moreover, China is the largest producer of steel which accounts for 40% of the world’s total production as compared to 15% in 2000, and that would increase by 3% annually to the upcoming 5 years. On the other hand, in India, the production rate of steel was 9.4% during 2000 to 2008 which is also assumed to be grown by 4.5% or more up to next 5 years (Osborne & Gupta, 2013). Cement is another global industry which uses coal as a sole energy source which is the essential element in the construction industry. Calcium carbonate, iron oxide, alumina, and silica are mixed and heated at high temperature with the help of coal which is then mixed with gypsum and converted it into a fine powder for the production of cement. In 2010, the consumption of cement was more than 3.3 billion tones across the globe. The countries are getting benefited by the production of these products through exporting and selling, by creating job opportunities, wages, investments and by paying tax and royalties; consequently contributes to the global economy and increases the GDP of the nation. Though there are a lot of different applications of coal, it causes some serious environmental disputes that are generally becoming worse for the health of human beings and disturbs the economy of the nation. The process of acquiring coal from the raw black rock; that is underground mining, cleaning, and carrying it from one place to another for different purposes like energy generation and dumping of coal, causes hazardous impacts on the environment by spreading soil, air and water pollution (Michieka, 2014). Moreover, the cost of both economic and ecological aspects increases with the quality and energy content of coal because large quantities of high-quality coal need to be extracted to cope with the energy requirements. For instance, in the USA, Massey Energy Company, the fourth largest industry, uses 40 million gallons of diesel as a fuel to produce $40 million tons of coal. Hence, an increase of $1 in the price of diesel directly converts into an increase of cost by $40 million, which affects the economy and threats related to the burning of coal affects the environment of the nation (Heinberg, 2009). Coal extraction also affects adversely by causing various disasters to societies around mines that consequently, result in deaths. Around 80% of coal-related accidents taking place in China are because of human error like gas leakage, fires, floods, blasts and roof cave-ins of abandoned mines (Michieka, 2014 & Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2009). Coal mining can cause a variety of threats to the soil, which depends on the activity of that mine. Threats include ecosystem evolution, change in use of land, ground subsidence, hydrodynamic changes and soil pollution (as Singh cited in Chikkatur et al., 2009). Dumping of by-products of coal mining like coal gangue for a long period at a particular place leads to the accumulation of hazardous components which results in the soil pollution (Michieka, 2014 & Chen et al., 2014). In addition, deforestation is one of the emerging concerns of surface mining processes that causes catastrophes like global warming by altering the environment. In India, more than quarter of the total land area, that is approximately 0.8 million hectares of land, is occupied by mining (as Jain cited in Chikkatur et al., 2009). Consequently, this directly results to deforestation that adversely affects the biodiversity and wildlife of those forests by altering it into a non-forested land, most of which is nonproductive and unmanaged (as Singh cited in Chikkatur et al., 2009 & Carl et al., 2011). Underground mining also causes a number of problems related to ecology. Chances of spreading of pollution in the soil are higher around the areas of mining of coal and its disposal sites because of inappropriate procedures and poor handling of the waste. According to Chen and the team (2014), land next to mining site, processing plants, waste, by-products, and ash discarding sites are prone to more chances of having polluted land. This could be done by leaching of trace elements from coal and coal gauges in the soil and accumulation of elements like Selenium, Molybdenum, Zinc, Vanadium, copper and Nickel causes contaminate surrounding land and plants by being used as fertilizer.Extraction of coal through mining pollutes ground as well as surface water resources; moreover, sometimes it also decreases the water levels in some areas. Water is essential at different stages of obtaining coal from row black stones that directly affects the reservoirs of water. Many coal mines are located in areas with water deficiency and coal requires a large amount of fresh water supply for the extraction and further processing from their natural geographic location hence lower down the groundwater quantity at some places (Michieka, 2014, Chikkatur et al., 2009). Moreover, some elements of coal composition also contaminate water bodies that cause water pollution. Elemental composition of coal contains fluorine (F), Arsenic (As), Selenium (Se), Mercury (Hg) etc. that enters into water resources via gangue, leaching, and ashes to pollute water reservoirs (Chen et al., 2014); moreover, Feng (as cited in Chen et al., 2014, p. 737) reveals that nearly 86% of Mercury, 79% of Selenium and 95% of Arsenic can leach into water bodies like surface water and even groundwater to spread pollution and makes them impure.Surface mining activities of coal can stimulate the emission of some gases like sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and methane, which introduces air pollution and damages the health of the residents near coal mining and processing sites. Surface mining activities which include blasting, drilling and driving of some heavyweight vehicles causing disruption of coal beds and other layers that release sulfides and methane (Chikkatur et al., 2009) into the surrounding atmosphere, hence causes acid rain that has damaged crops and decreased the forest (Michieka, 2014). In China, arsenism, lung cancer, selenosis, and fluorosis are some of the deadliest health effects caused by coal mining (Chen et al., 2014). Moreover, Poland produces a large amount of heat and electricity which introduces carbon dioxide of 166 million tons (97% by coal-based generation) and gas production involves the particulate matter of 3.28 million tons and more than 1 million tons of Sulfur dioxide (Chattopadhyay et al., 2017). Problems related to people and their organ systems associated with coal mining and processing invites various threatening diseases. According to Alan (as cited in Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2009), “… while the U.S. relies heavily on coal for its energy needs, the consequences of that reliance for our health are grave” (para. 2). Combustion of coal introduces mercury, NOx, SOx, particulate matters and other elements into surrounding atmosphere that causes hazardous impacts on various systems of humans including the nervous system, the cardiovascular system (CVD) and the respiratory system. It involves four out of five major body threatening diseases; cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and heart diseases. Mercury directly acts on the nervous system and causes loss of intelligence. According to studies, 3, 17,000 to 6, 31,000 babies are born with higher Hg levels in their blood that may decrease IQ level and cause lifelong loss of intelligence in the USA. Pollutants affect CVD by blocking arteries, leading to heart attack and death of tissues due to deficiency of oxygen that leads to permanent heart damage. Air pollution causes serious health effects related to the respiratory system which includes asthma, lung cancer, lung diseases and abnormal development of lungs in children (Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2009). However, humans who are not prone to any health related issues spread by combustion of coal, are affected by global warming and coal is one of the major contributors to it. For instance, burning of coal emits carbon dioxide into the environment leads to increase in the temperature of the Earth and spreads adverse effects like stroke, heat stroke, decrease in production of food, malaria, starvation and water scarcities (Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2009). In conclusion, natural resources like coal have a lot of different advantages; however, drawbacks regarding the environment, outweighs it. The essay talks about the benefits of coal which are electricity generation, in steel and cement industries, energy production, providing jobs to the residents living near mines, which consequently contributes to the economic development of the nation. Indeed, coal is one of the most important and cheap natural resources used by mankind, it causes severe environmental disputes like soil pollution, water pollution, air pollution, ecological impacts, deforestation, etc., which makes the huge contribution to the global warming. It also affects human beings adversely and in some cases situation getting worse by causing deaths. For instance, many people and workers are heavily influenced by some catastrophic effects caused by human errors like gas leakage, mine abundance, floods, fire, blasts, etc., some of these have resulted in deaths. Therefore, nations should find another cheap and reliable source for electricity generation or if they want to use coal as a soal energy source, policies must be strict that should improve environmental protection and control measures to make a perfect balancing between power and economic impacts with the environment, health and safety implications.