What is mining?

The extraction (removal) of minerals and metals from below the ground, such as copper, coal and gold. Mining is usually carried by a national or international company, with the permission of that country’s government. Some mining takes place by people who are not part of a company and without permission from the government. This is artesinal mining and usually small scale with people working in dangerous conditions, making little profit. This mining is often called ‘illegal’ mining.

Is mining the same as extraction or extractivism…?

Mining is extraction. Extractivism is the removal of natural resources to sell on the world market. It does include mining, which is the extraction of fossil fuels and minerals below the ground. But extractivism is more than that – it includes fracking, deforestation, agro-industry and megadams. Historically, extractivism has adversely affected the Global Majority world more, especially indigenous communities; and has benefited rich countries.

Extractivism is linked to neo-colonialism because many mining companies are from other countries – historically in the Global North – although this is changing. Indigeneous communities are disproportionately targeted for extractivism and, while companies may seek the state’s permission and even work with them to share the profits, they often do not seek informed consent from communities before they begin extracting – or stealing – their resources. The profit made rarely gets to the affected communities whose land, water sources and labour is often being used. Communities are often displaced, left with physical, mental and spiritual illhealth, and often experience difficulties continuing with traditional livelihoods of farming and fishing due to the destruction or contamination of the environment.

Mining techniques, processes and waste

Take a look at these powerpoints for information on the technical side of mining – they’re very reader-friendly.

Minerals and ore bodies
Different kinds of mining
Processing ores to extract the metal
Mine wastes
Social and environmental concerns

Coal mining

Coal mining is of special concern because the impacts of coal burning on climate change. But there are other concerns too. London Mining Network has produced an introductory briefing on coal mining, dealing with its impacts on farming communities, Indigenous Peoples, water, air and human health. It calls for a just, planned transition away from coal and the creation of alternative livelihoods for the very many people reliant on coal mining. (This briefing does not deal with the issue of climate change.)


Uranium is also of special concern because of the effects of radiation. Read our briefing on the health and environmental impacts of uranium mining and watch a slide show on uranium mining and nuclear power.

Is mining inherently bad?

  • Mining is one of the most polluting industries in the world.
  • It has an especially negative impact on land-based communities, especially Indigenous Peoples.
  • It is frequently associated with forced evictions, militarization, conflict and human rights abuses.
  • Use of coal in energy generation is a major contributor to destructive climate change.
  • Use of uranium produces a radioactive legacy which threatens the well-being of thousands of generations to come.
  • In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, establishing their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent before projects affecting their lands or resources are allowed to go ahead. Mining companies and governments need to respect this Declaration – but they often do not.

What can we do about it?

Find out community concerns about mining projects and find out about their demands, struggles and successes. See our Resources page on organisations that work on different campaigns. And, although we work primarily with communities overseas, some of our network members are involved with resistance in the UK to proposed and current mining and fracking projects. Many have a long-term presence at the sites and would welcome extra support.

Look up the mining company they are resisting. We have a unique advantage being based in London in that the mining companies we target are registered on the London Stock Exchange or the AIM, some have headquarters in London and most have their annual general meetings in London. We focus on these companies as a strategic move, while working in collaboration with affected communities.

Organise with us. Sigh up to our newsletters for mining-related news. Come to an event or set up your own. And get in touch!