Sustainable Mining Practices: 5 Strategies to Consider
Companies should consider implementing these five sustainable mining practices to combat negative social and environmental change.
Mining’s role in the global economy becomes more and more prominent as the population grows and the demand for metals and minerals increases. However, companies will continue negatively influencing social and environmental surroundings without establishing sustainable mining practices.
Fortunately, some involved in the mining industry are beginning to take steps to counteract the damaging effects of years of irresponsible extraction practices. These participants include professionals and individuals from within and outside the sector who are pressuring companies to minimize their carbon footprint and adverse impact on local communities.
As a result, more companies are taking new measures to foster responsible processes, and this article highlights five sustainable mining practices these businesses should consider to lessen their adverse social and environmental effects.
5 Critical Sustainable Mining Practices
1. Shutting Down Illegal Mining
High unemployment rates and increased poverty can lead to increased illegal mining and infrastructure theft in unused shafts. The groups involved in these unlawful practices typically have little regard for environmental protection or safety, resulting in several mining area hardships, including:
- Increased safety and security risks for the surrounding community
- Negative impacts on production and revenue
- Worsened water resource degradation
- Higher risks of acid mine drainage
While more policing and security are required, sustainable miners can also develop ways to deal with the underlying social and economic issues that support illicit mining. These strategies might include raising awareness of the risks a reduced “life of mine” poses to the community, the environment, and the local economy.
2. Rehabilitating Legitimate Mining Sites
Modern mining techniques cause significant environmental disruption, such as deforestation, air pollution, and severe land erosion.
Worse, this erosion often continues for years after a mining company has ceased operations, resulting in:
- Prolonged soil and water contamination
- A property now unusable by the landowner
- A large area now potentially inhospitable to plant and animal life
However, there is no guarantee that this damage will last forever. Mining companies have access to numerous land rehabilitation strategies that restore the productivity of mined land and potentially quicken its natural recovery.
For instance, companies can use biosolids to replenish eradicated topsoil in just a few months. The newly sown and watered soil can soon generate plants that prevent ongoing soil erosion. Combined with other rehabilitation methods, these technique types, such as filling excavated areas with waste rocks, can reduce mining-related disruptions.
3. Implementing Eco-Friendly Equipment and Processes
Mining businesses can also transition to more environmentally friendly machinery and processes prioritizing environmental responsibility and energy efficiency to lessen their influence on climate change. Those strategies might include:
- Purchasing electric-powered trucks, loaders, and excavators that produce zero tailpipe emissions, reducing air pollution and improving air quality in and around mining sites.
- Leveraging renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower power their operations that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
- Adopting water recycling and treatment systems that conserve water resources and minimize water pollution from mining activities.
- Implementing waste recycling equipment that reprocesses waste materials from mining operations, minimizes environmental impact, and promotes a circular economy.
4. Ensuring Surrounding Communities Prosper
Mines are sometimes the largest single source of employment in local communities where these natural resources are prevalent, particularly in more remote locations with fewer employment options.
Mining companies cannot, however, continue to offer these opportunities indefinitely because these minerals and metals are of finite supply, and the operation will terminate at some point. Therefore, it is crucial to diversify economic activity in these communities and create financially and commercially viable options that are not reliant on mining.
Miners with a purposeful, long-term social license plan frequently take the lead in creating and nurturing new, community-based enterprises.
For example, local supply chain-focused companies can grow to meet the mine’s short-term service needs and expand their geographic reach to serve customers in other areas as their technological and financial resources increase.
Sustainable miners may also actively manage the economic transition of their host communities when working in tandem with a solid local skills development and training philosophy to ensure the end of mining operations does not result in financial devastation.
5. Using Lower-Impact Mining Techniques
Conventional mining processes can severely impact the environment, and some standard practices, such as open pit and underground mining, pose some of the most significant environmental concerns.
While still extracting essential minerals, low-impact mining techniques seek to reduce the harmful effects of mining operations on the environment and society. These techniques, which concentrate on lowering energy use, water pollution, and habitat degradation, include the following:
- WIn-situ Mining. In-situ mining is a low-impact technique for extracting minerals like uranium and some metals from ore bodies without removing the ore from the ground.
- Selective Mining: Selective mining involves extracting only high-grade materials, leaving lower-grade ones in place. This approach reduces waste generation and decreases the amount of material that needs to be processed, minimizing the overall environmental impact.
- Solution Mining. Solution mining is another low-impact method of extracting minerals such as salt and potash. It involves dissolving minerals underground using water or brine, and the resulting solution is pumped to the surface for processing.
By utilizing these processes, companies might dramatically lessen surface disturbance at mining sites, cut soil erosion, and transport less backfilled material.
Improving Mining Sustainability Requires the Right Solutions
Sustainable mining practices are key to harmonious coexistence between the mining industry, surrounding communities, and the environment. And as companies navigate the challenges of resource extraction in an increasingly conscious world, it becomes imperative for them to embrace eco-friendly and responsible approaches.
Furthermore, as the industry looks towards a future that demands economic growth and environmental stewardship, the transformation towards sustainable mining practices emerges not just as a choice but as an ethical imperative to safeguard our planet’s delicate balance for future generations.
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