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Causes and Effects of Coal Mining in Australia and China: Comparative Analysis

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What is coal mining?

Coal mining is the procedure of removing coal from the ground. Coal is a necessity for human beings nowadays, generating most of our energy. It is a popular item on top of the market with high demand. Coal is a non-renewable resource meaning after we have used it all up it will take millions of years to replenish it, so governments are trying to find alternatives, so we do not run out. Mining takes place in many countries such as China, Australia, United States of America and Russia as all these countries have a mass of coal, exporting to other countries and making money. There are two different mining methods to extract coal, the first one is surface mining and the second one is underground. Surface mining is when the first layer of soil and vegetation are removed to get to the hidden coal, while as underground mining involves digging deep underground to find coal.

Causes of coal mining:

The causes of mining in Australia and China are almost identical. We mine coal for many reasons, the main reason is for energy (electricity) as we need the energy for everyday life.

Australia: Australia is the world’s leading coal exporter. Australia mines coal for the energy it provides us, but along with the mining industry it has also brought in advantages such jobs, wealth and asset for the country. It is a known fact that coal mining makes 85% of the energy we use today. Coal mining is also crucial for the world as it manufactures steel and cement so without coal, we wouldn’t be able to make houses, pools etc. Electricity made from the coal also allows people to turn on and off their lights, charge our phones and make your house colder or hotter. Hence meaning mining in Australia is useful.

China: China is the world’s biggest coal producer, meaning by mining they are gaining most importantly electricity, money, jobs and assets just like Australia. Due to China having the world’s most population the Chinese government has to cater for all the energy/electricity required, this is why the government has opened up many coal mines, using energy for themselves but also exporting to other countries. It is known that coal provides China with 69% of its primary energy and 80% of its electricity meaning that mining in China is beneficial.

Biophysical process Australia:

The effects of mining are the same wherever it’s being done, however certain problems are more prominent in certain regions.

In Australia, several issues occur related to water such as, water not being able support an ecosystem anymore due to it being polluted. Furthermore, due to increased acidity in water, organisms cannot perform their normal functions, hence subsequently dying. Increased acidity also prevents the water from being drinkable. After the mining process, soil erosion also occurs, causing streams to become dirty disturbing fish, drinking water and water services such as swimming etc.

Biophysical process China:

In China, the main detrimental effect of mining is air and atmosphere pollution. Particulate matter, emissions and gases are all the effect of coal mining in relation to air pollution. Some of the gases include carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. All three gases are toxic, leading to air pollution if coal is burned in large amounts. They lead to diseases such as respiratory problems, lung cancer and pneumoconiosis. Furthermore, carbon, dust and coal particles mixed together throughout the mining process discharged from coal transport all lead to respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic bronchitis .

Short term effects:

Australia: There are many short-term effects in Australia from coal mining. A short- term effect in Australia is fish dying as a result of the mountaintop removal which makes streams and rivers filled with rock and dust killing hundreds of fish. Another short- term effect is increased water acidity. When an area is affected by increased acidity of water, the result is that damages to fish and corals would occur. Coral bleaching is a serious short-term effect of coal mining in Australia as in the Great Barrier Reef it is a fact that one third of the reef is already dead from coral bleaching.

China: There are several short-term effects in China from coal mining that will gradually worsen over the years due to the government not taking action. A short-term effect in China is air pollution, a detrimental factor in China. It is a fact that 1.1 million deaths in 2015 related to air pollution, showing how bad pollution is in China. Air pollution is caused from mining by the inadequate burning methods, leading to toxins being released in the air. Another short-term effect is the destruction of habitats of wildlife for mining. This happens when miners take up a mass amount of space, cutting trees down and digging the soil meaning taking away homes from the wildlife. Furthermore, large amounts of waste not being disposed properly is another short-term effect. This procedure affects not only water but also land and air causing pollution of water and air, further worsening what could be taken care of properly.

Long term effects:

Australia: All the short-term effects of coal mining in Australia lead up to the long-term effects. In Australia loss of biodiversity is a long-term effect as fish are getting higher chances of extinction due to acid mine drainage and the mountaintop removal process, as these contribute to adding to the risks of the deaths the fish might have meaning in the long run extinction might occur. Fish will also lose their homes due to coral bleaching, further leading to extinction. Another long-term effect is global warming. Global warming happens from the burning of coal which leads to green-house emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Furthermore, the most long- term effect is that coal is non-renewable, so once we use it all up, we will have to wait millions of years for it to replenish.

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China: All the short-term effects of coal mining in China lead up to the long-term effects. In China global warming is a major problem. Like in Australia, it happens from the burning of coal. The change of climate in China is associated to global warming, as China is the world’s greatest greenhouse emitter making Another major long-term effect is chronic illnesses in China. Due to the amounts of air pollution and the releasing of toxic chemicals chronic illness will rise as already people are dying. Some illnesses include respiratory diseases, pneumoconiosis and lung cancer. These chronic diseases all cause death at a faster rate. Loss of biodiversity is another prominent long-term effect as there is illegal mining practices. The miners do not really care about the habitats of the wildlife, cutting trees down and digging the soil, thereby taking away homes from the wildlife and causing loss of habitat and therefore biodiversity.

Spatial distribution:

China: In this picture it is clear to see that China is mined in a greater proportion to Australia. In China coal is mined to a great proportion as many of these places are mined to an extremely high level according to this map. China is being mined more than Australia as China has the most amount of coal in the world hence meaning it would have to be mined to a greater extent to further receive all the resources they need to provide for the world.

Australia: In this picture it is recognisable that Australia is mined in a smaller proportion compared to China. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, only 0.02% of Australian land is being used for the purpose of mining (and that is for all types of mining, so coal mining is actually even less than that). This is why Australia is being less mined compared to China.

Management responses Australia:

There are many management responses in both Australia and China however, some regulations may not be as useful as others:

In Australia many management responses have taken action such as enacted legislation to control mining. All these laws help with environmental sustainability. The Australian Minerals Industry Code for Environmental Management was a crucial industry strategy. The ambition of the code was to teach mining companies how to be safe, and how to better the environmental performance and public accountability and were not aimed to arrange principles. The effectiveness of this was decent as now miners know how to be safe and have learnt how to better the environment etc. Furthermore, regulations and legislation relating to mining, such as the Coal Acquisition Act 1981 which outlines rightful and lawful ways for coal to be mined in Australia. This legislation is effective as it has helped Australia mine in a legal way compared to China were all of its areas don’t mine legally. Additionally, another project that was implemented last year was the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority’s Dust Stop Program. This program was created to impose better control on dust. The aim was to accomplish an 80 per cent dust decrease of dust by this month. This program was effective as it helped decrease dust further lowering health problems, and climate change.

Management responses China:

In China minimal legislation and regulations exist, because it is not in the best economic interests to control mining in China. Although there are some regulations, they are obviously not enough, because many people continue to get sick as a result from mining. A law in China is The Mineral Resources Law. This law is for the whole of China guiding the extraction of mines in China and the listing of mining rights. This law has been adjusted in 1996 and 2009 and hasn’t been very effective as people still mine illegally in China. Another law was the air law aimed to prevent and control air pollution from coal burning, cars etc. This law commenced in 1987 and was last implemented on 2016. The laws try to confine all toxins in the air including carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. This law is terribly ineffective as China is one of the worlds most polluted countries, displaying this law hasn’t worked.

Contribution of individuals and government:

There are many ways in which individuals and governments can contribute to stop mining effects:

Australia: In Australia the first contribution would be to Stop Adani a coal mine in preparation which threatens the Greater Barrier Reef, for this a campaign #stopadani would be made and put online for further viewers to help and prevent this hazardous situation from occurring. Another contribution to make is to take building more mine, as if we keep doing so, we will just be increasing the risk of pollution, loss of biodiversity etc. Additionally, another contribution that could be made is that government and non- profit organisations (young people) start a social media on mining to educate people who don’t know of this issue making people want to take action and stop this issue.


In China a contribution that would be useful is to close down many of the mines to reduce air pollution and enact more legislation and stricter regulations in regard to mine operation and impose stricter penalties and very heavy fines for people who do not follow these rules. Another contribution is for the United Nation to take action against China as it is a global issue affecting everyone. Finally, a last contribution is for non- profit organisations (young people) start a social media on mining to educate them making people want to take action and stop this issue.

All these actions will help with the sustainability of the environment further lowering short term and long-term effects.

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Causes and Effects of Coal Mining in Australia and China: Comparative Analysis. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from
“Causes and Effects of Coal Mining in Australia and China: Comparative Analysis.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Causes and Effects of Coal Mining in Australia and China: Comparative Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Jun. 2023].
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