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Teaching activity

In the News Teaching Activity: The ‘Hidden’ Pollution From Metal Mining (Oct 2023)

Elizabeth Veal

5th October 2023

Scientists have found evidence that 23m people in the world are living on ‘contaminated’ flood plains due to metal-mining pollution. Have a go at this free teaching activity, which includes a downloadable worksheet and suggested answers.

This BBC article from late September considers a study by UK scientists which mapped active and abandoned metal mines assessing the extent of pollution seeping into soil and water.

This has worrying implications for human health and for the safety of food supply chains in some parts of the world.

The contamination affects agriculture, irrigation, and livestock and, indirectly many humans too. Scientists argue that although we often consider water quality, we often neglect to look at the pollutants in river sediments.

The negative production externalities are considerable. The scientists argue that future planning for metal mines should take this problem into account to avoid even more people being affects by the enduring impact of pollution from abandoned mines, especially as climate change may exacerbate this type of pollution as flooding problems grow.

Metal-mining pollution impacts 23 million people worldwide (BBC News)

Read the article and then answer the following questions.

  1. What is a ‘negative production externality’?
  2. In the BBC article, find examples of negative production externalities associated with metal mining.
  3. Using an MSB/MSC diagram, show how the negative production externalities in the metal mining market creates a welfare loss for society. Explain your diagram fully.

Download the worksheet and suggested answers

Elizabeth Veal

Liz has taught Economics for over 25 years, including several years as Head of Economics at leading schools.

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