Can Sustainability Be Achieved in Mining?

August 31, 2020

The mining industry is one of the primary reasons behind the extraction of key elements on the planet. Mining has been conducted by a lot of countries for a long time now, extracting natural products that are available within their jurisdiction. The process of extraction of valuable minerals and geological materials from the ground can easily stock up resources for further processing and various applications. However, the conventional practices of mining have heavily affected the condition of the environment.

One specific type of mining that is being monitored right now is coal mining. Coal is the primary source of electricity generation worldwide. It is also used for steel production, cement manufacturing, and liquid fuel production. While the applications of coal are truly abundant, its overall supply might not be able to sustain all of them in the future since coal takes millions of years to form.

Detrimental Effects of Mining

Aside from the actual extraction of resources, there are a lot more activities that are involved in mining. Some of the activities that are conducted during mining include prospecting, exploration, construction, maintenance, expansion, decommissioning, and repurposing of the mining site. A few of these mentioned activities do not truly cause direct harm to the environment, but they provide results and data that are being fed on to mining companies and allows them to conduct the actual extraction and other activities.

The construction of structures, the mining operations, and all the maintenance works on the site can all cause destructive effects on the environment. Before conducting any extractions, the mining site must be cleared of trees and vegetation. Therefore, mining companies would cut or burn them, which leads to deforestation. And since there are no more trees and vegetation, the involved land area will continue to weaken until it erodes. Erosion has caused a lot of mining sites to collapse and bury people alive.

Contamination of soil profiles, local streams, and wetlands also happens whenever mining is conducted. Some materials that are used in mining operations often cause alterations to the neighbouring bodies of water as well as the overall soil properties. Mining operations and other associated activities can likewise emit high levels of noise, dust, and other harmful elements to the environment, which then affect the health of people, animals, and other living things that reside near the mining sites.

Achieving Sustainable Mining

Conventional ways of mining can mostly harm the environment and neighbouring communities. However, modern mining methods and processes make it possible for the mining industry to be sustainable and ecological. Through the implementation and adherence to mitigation measures, sustainability can be achieved in the mining industry

Mitigation measures are created to avoid, eliminate, reduce, control, or compensate for all the negative effects and impacts of mining. These measures can only be achieved by combining good governance, self-regulating mining enterprises, and modern engineering solutions. Good governance will ensure that the mining companies will follow mining-related laws, provisions, and requirements without harming their overall operations. Engagement among key stakeholders, development of greater socio-economic relations, as well as transparency and accountability must all be fulfilled to make mining sustainable.

Self-regulating mining enterprises will, alternatively, refrain the government from abusing their power, conducting corruption practices, and giving out substandard works since they will be the ones who will perform the much-needed local socio-economic development works. Technological engineering solutions can also make mining sustainable since all products that are deemed harmful to the environment can now be treated or processed right away, eliminating illegal waste disposal and other similar actions.

Sustainability can be truly achieved in mining. As long as all parties will work together, the harmful effects of mining can be eradicated significantly.

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