Downsides of Mining Magnesium
One of the major sources for magnesium in the United States is the Great Salt Lake in Utah. To extract magnesium and other salts from the Lake, mining companies divert water into shallow evaporation ponds. This process leads to increased water evaporation. According to scientists at Utah State University, diverting of water has led to an 11-foot drop in the water level of the Great Salt Lake and the mining of minerals contributed to this drop. Eleven feet may not seem that impressive, but the Lake is at historical lows. If the current water loss of the Great Salt Lake continues, Utah residents could be at greater risk for respiratory conditions, heart and lung disease if the lakebed becomes exposed leading to potentially harmful dust being released.
The low water levels also impact wildlife. Cooper Farr with the Tracy Aviary told Utah Public Radio that decreasing water levels means there is less food for migratory birds, which leads to fewer nestlings hatching, and that the survival rate for birds that do hatch is lower. Farr also fears that the lack of food can lead to mass die-off events for migratory birds.
“We have this potential environmental nuclear bomb that’s going to go off if we don’t take some action,” said Joel Ferry, Republican state lawmaker and Utah resident in a New York Times article. Researchers say that if mining companies stopped diverting water in the Great Salt Lake, it could potentially lead to an increase in water levels of 1.4 feet.