Understanding the impacts of mining on ecosystem services through a systematic review

Robyn Boldy, Talitha Santini, Mark Annandale, Peter D. Erskine, Laura J. Sonter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Mining activities can pose negative, sometimes irreversible damage to ecosystems, yet consequences for ecosystem services (ES) and their contribution to human wellbeing are more uncertain. Obtaining a clear understanding of where and how mining impacts ES and the methods used to show this is crucial for determining management approaches to overcome impacts. Here, we review the academic literature examining mining impacts to ES. We found only 60 papers assessed impacts to ES, with the majority focused on coal mining. Regulating services, such as carbon storage and erosion prevention, were most commonly assessed. We observed considerable variation in ES definitions and conceptualisations with no methodological consistency in ES assessments among studies. While we found negative impacts on ES were attributed to active mining operations and some positive impacts were related to restoration activities, our results also highlight major limitations to managing ES in mining regions. Assessing the full extent of impacts to ES from mining requires clear identification of changes in the ES chain – from biophysical supply to benefits and human wellbeing throughout the mining lifecycle. We propose a research agenda to address these knowledge gaps, which will help to improve pre- and post-mining ecosystem management for ES and human wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-466
Number of pages10
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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