September 21, 2017

3 ways mines can ‘green’ their activities

Underground mining,Photo: Daily Maverick

Mining will continue to play an important role in the economy of the continent, as a foreign exchange earner and a big employer.  However, considering the growing effects of global warming, the mining industry has to do it bit to reduce its carbon footprint in different ways. Sadly, it appears some mining companies, it is profit, profit and profit, at all costs, and noting else.

But there is a huge price to pay in the long-term for massive short-term gains. Thus, the burden is on mines to adopt environmentally friendly practices. The ones listed below could make a considerable difference.

i. Accurate account of toxic mining waste

The governments or other regulators in countries have to introduce a requirements for the accurate reporting of toxic mining waste. Currently, mine operators are literally getting away scottfree.

There is evidence that some mining companies have been dumping toxic waste from their operations into surrounding ecosystems and covering up their nefarious acts.  The public has been kept in the dark, holding the mining companies in high esteem as exemplary corporate citizens. One such example is the situation in the DR Congo in the mineral-rich town of Lubumbashi, where the damage has spread through acids in untreated waste released into nature, polluting the air, the water, and much of Lubumbashi, a city of more than two million residents in the country’s southeast.

ii. Waste recycling 

Mines can manage the huge volumes of waste they generate through recycling. Just for example, recycling copper takes seven times less energy than processing ore, recycling steel uses three-and-a-half times less energy than ore.

Thanks to new technology, on mine sites, wastewater can be recycled for reuse and byproducts like tailings turned into ore for profit.

Wastewater plants can utilise precipitation and separation technology to produce potable quality water and a by-product for reuse as agricultural soil conditioner from mine impacted water effluent.

iii. Closing and reclaiming sites of shut-down mines

On abandoned or closed mines are the source of environmental hazards. Thus, engaging small decommissioning groups and contractors to take apart abandoned  mining  facilities and plants will allow the pipelines to be drained, equipment and parts of the mine to be cleaned and sold off, the buildings can be repurposed or demolished, warehouse materials recovered, and waste disposed of.

The main objective in the reclaiming process is to return the land which surrounds it back to reusable standards, ensuring that any landforms and structures are stable, and why watercourses need to be evaluated in order to regain water quality within the affected area.

The situation in South Africa, where there are about 6‚000 disused gold‚ diamond underscores what can happens when mine is abandoned. hundreds of illegal miners who have accessed mines have died from gas explosions‚ heat stroke‚ rock falls and diseases.

v. Green Mining Technology

Mines can explore or make use of technologies that can help them minimise the impact of their activities on the environment. Already, it is encouraging that some mines are adopting methods that ensure low level of pollution.

A business imperative 

All things considered, adopting sound environmental practices is for mine’s own good. The benefits are long-term and worth every penny, although they might appear to be a huge financial burden in the short-term. Therefore, board members have to embrace sound environmental management practices, not just to tick compliance boxes, but as vital component of a business mandate.


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