The mining industry is important in contemporary societies, supplying the continuous demand for minerals in various branches of the market and promoting economic development.
However, this continuous increase in demand for natural resources, coupled with population growth and consumerism of today’s society, go against the concept of sustainability.
For this reason, the theme of sustainable practices in the mining industry is increasingly highlighted, regarding the importance of developing solutions that can be adopted by the industry, generating less environmental and social impact and ensuring the availability of resources for future generations.
Read this text to the end to learn more about this topic!
UNO Sustainable Development Goals
In the fall of 2015, the world’s heads of state adopted the UN Agenda 2030 with the 17 sustainable development goals. The overall goals of the Agenda are as follows:
- Eradicate poverty and hunger
- Ensure human rights for all, achieve social and gender equality
- Ensure the protection of the planet and its natural resources
The sustainable development goals balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental.
The 2030 Agenda is a positive step towards a global cooperation and can contribute to a greater realization that require the balance of different social goals – economic sustainability is a prerequisite for social and environmental sustainability and vice versa.
One of the most prominent sectors that require the adoption of sustainable practices is the mining industry.
Mining and sustainability
The footprint of mining operations is often visible from outer space, with large excavation areas standing out in a sea of green forest. View of Brazil’s Carajás Mines from space. (Photo: NASA) (https://www.iisd.org/sites/default/files/styles/wysiwyg_desktop/public/2021-10/carajas-brazil-mine.jpg?itok=Dg521UlB
A sustainable view of the mining industry means taking into account the people, the environment, and the economy.
The human aspects include health, social and cultural elements. It is necessary to take into account the environmental matters such as emissions, waste management, post-extraction remediation, nature conservation, energy use, and climate. Economic aspects include social development, prosperity, competitiveness, resource management, and the circular economy.
The mining industries affect all three dimensions of sustainability, but the use of mineral resources is indispensable for our society, including to provide raw materials for a more environmentally friendly technological and energy transformation.
The regulation of mining activities depends mainly on national frameworks and policies, but the implementation of good practices remains problematic.
In order to effectively shift to “sustainable mining,” governments and companies must recognize the environmental and social impacts of mining and enact laws and regulations that require community consultation throughout the mining life cycle.
How can mining become more environmentally sustainable?
- Proper disposal and treatment of waste and tailings
- Reducing water use and waste production
- Alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind power
- Battery-powered equipment
- Use of equipment from recyclable sources
- Improvements in the extraction process
- Appropriate mine closure measures
- Environmental restoration
Regarding to energy, a mining company can seek alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind power, as well as use electric-powered equipment and vehicles, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.
Waste management plans are required to avoid soil, air and water pollution. Such plans are also in place to properly store the large volumes of waste produced in the mines.
The use of cleaner production techniques, environmental control technologies, using waste as a raw material, and process re-engineering are other ways to reduce waste production from mines.
Proper waste disposal is crucial to reducing the environmental impact of mines. Companies can invest in equipment that helps transform waste into reusable materials.
Importance of sustainable vision for mining
In addition to the importance of reducing the environmental and social impacts of mining, the industry itself can also benefit from adopting a sustainable vision for the industry.
Mining companies can find the unexpected benefit of financial gains from improved sustainability.
While green policies may seem expensive, they actually can provide a competitive advantage to the company. Also, the ability to recycle and reduce waste may lead to an improved bottom line.
Ultimately, for mining companies to thrive in today’s political, social, economic, and environmental scenario, sustainable practices must be at the heart of operations.
Many companies are starting to understand that their economic feasibility relies on the adoption of an environmentally and socially responsible approach at all operation levels.
Preservation is our Core business
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