Mining and biodiversity

The landscape created by mining may no longer be suitable for the species that previously existed there; however, it may be suitable for new species

Mines are divided into open-cast mines, i.e. quarries, and underground mines. During mining, mineral resources are taken from the earth’s crust for the purpose of using them, and after the mining is completed, the area is rehabilitated [1]. Quarries can be used to mine, for example, sand, gravel, dolomite, oil shale, granite, clay, and peat.

Open cast mine i.e. quarry. By: Kuno Kasak
Compared to underground mining, quarries are much more visually striking and their recultivation or restoration is also significantly more difficult. By: Kuno Kasak


Quarrying removes existing vegetation and topsoil, and the surrounding environment can be disturbed by the blasting, lowering the groundwater level, and airborne dust. At the end of mining, poor soil quality and a changed landscape remain [2, 3], which has a negative impact on biodiversity. For example, the impact of a limestone quarry on vegetation (for example, on wetland species such as several orchids) [4] occurs within a radius of about one kilometre, but it also depends on the geological structure of the area and the degree of depletion of the upper groundwater and surface water level. Impacts on fauna are mostly in the form of noise and are estimated to span a range of a few hundred metres. Over time, animal and bird species will adapt to disturbances [5], but the mining landscape may no longer be suitable for pre-existing species. However, it may be suitable for new species (such as the sand martin).


The impact of quarries with a larger area (for example, the Aidu quarry) is greater and the process of rehabilitating them after the end of mining takes longer. In smaller quarries, the surrounding areas also provide more support for the recovery of biota. In Estonia, the area of most quarries is small and there is no urgent need to restore pre-mining habitats at any cost. Rather, it is expedient to choose the direction of restoration based on the water regime and soil formed in the area after mining [1]. The development of landscaping goals and landscape elements in large-scale oil shale quarries, where the original community and landscape are completely destroyed during mining, needs to be planned much more thoroughly [6].



Last modified: 13.01.2022


Text: Kristjan Piirimäe, Kuno Kasak

Editors: Sigrid Ots, Reigo Roasto



[1] E. Niitlaan, E. Reinsalu. Uuringuruumi teenindusalade korrastamise õiguslikud nõuded (koost. Ü. Rammul, E. Niitlaan, E. Reinsalu ja L. Keerberg). Ehitusmaavarade uuringu- ja kaevandamisalade korrastamise käsiraamat. OÜ Inseneribüroo STEIGER, 2017. 

[2] R. Latifovic, K. Fytas, J. Chen, J. Paraszczak. Assessing land cover change resulting from large surface mining development. Int. J. Appl. Earth Obs. Geoinf., 2005/7, 29–48.

[3] E. Ulyura, V. Tytar. Terrestrial Vertebrates of Post-Quarrying Sites in the Donbas Region of Ukraine. Vestnik zoologii 2017 v. 51 no. 6, 517-526. 

[4] J. Paal jt. Rakendusuuring kaevandamistundlikkuse määramiseks. 2015.

[5] E. Riis, K. Ritsberg, R. Pajula, E. Rahno, V. Väizene, K. Nauts. Kohtla-Järve lubjakivikarjääri maavara kaevandamise loa keskkonnamõju hindamine. 2017

[6] L. Puusepp, M. Pensa, M. Küttim, M. Kangur. Loodusressursside tarbimine. Kogumikus: Eesti inimarengu aruanne 2014/15.