The mining industry is finally cleaning up it’s act by introducing new practices and methods to achieve high yields with minimum disruption and pollution after many years of being know as the “dirtiest” industry. The entire industry is committed to performing any necessary land remediation once a mine is exhausted with focus on changing it’s reputation. In today’s post we will examine how mining is becoming more environmentally friendly.
With efforts to become more sustainable, mines are putting into practice ways to minimize their impact on the environment. Once an area of land that is exhausted from mining efforts are being made to repair and welcoming wildlife back in. There are several new technologies and strategies making this area welcoming. In the state of Virgina the Powell River Project is enhancing wildlife habitat on reclaimed mine lands and sharing what they have researched. It is clear from studies like these that a variety of birds, salamanders, and frogs use reclaimed mine areas proving efforts are positive.
The blue-winged warbler (Vermivora pinus) is a species of concern in the eastern United States due to loss of habitat. It prefers early to mid-successional habitat, especially forest clearings and forest/field edges. – from research at Virginia Copperative Extension
From the ICMM Research
It is no secret that water is essential to life on Earth. Factors that will drive water stress to increase in some parts of the world include population growth and continued economic development. Mines may have to divert surface water or remove groundwater, which affects both the quality and quantity of water available to wildlife and human use. This is especially devastating in arid areas. Operating mines were combating this problem by using water conservation practices to reduce their usage. Research shows that Canada’s mining industry has one of the world’s highest recycling rates for water and reduced its water usage by a third between 1996 and 2005. Read more about Water management in mining: a selection of case studies at ICMM ( International Council of Mining and Metals)
Mining and ore processing are energy-expensive processes – diesel is used by trucks and excavators, electricity is needed to grind up and refine the ore, and coal is used to smelt iron ore into steel. There’s also the infrastructure around these processes and their impacts upon the environment, as well as the production of greenhouse gases all the way along the route. By reducing energy consumption, mines can limit their carbon footprint and reduce running costs, in turn reducing the price of the resource.
Some mines have reduced their energy consumption by installing conveyor belts to transport ore to refineries or cargo vehicles. Many types of transmission chain from Renold.com are designed to withstand harsh climates and chemicals so will last for years. Mines are also using renewable energy sources like solar or wind, depending on the prevailing climate of the area.
Image from Where The Minerals Are / Visual.ly.com
Mines cover only a minuscule fraction of the earth’s surface – less then0.01% of Canada has been used in mining in over a century, however, every stage of a mine’s life uses land. There’s the initial exploration, the construction, vegetation clearing and the potential for widespread pollution, as well as waste storage facilities. All these stages can lead to habitat loss.
Modern mines are reducing their land impact by reducing their physical footprints, reducing the amount of waste produced and by transplanting rare plants and animals to safer areas. In addition to these techniques, the advent of bio-mining may lead to even less land disruption for future mines.
Mines produce solid waste, contaminated water and air, all of which carry different potential problems for the environment. By reducing waste at the outset, as well as improving waste management methods, mines can lessen the post-production impact of their activities.
It’s effective and cost less to prevent pollution than to clean it up after the fact. Mines are starting to adopt cleaner production methods using waste products as raw materials and using process re-engineering to reduce the amount of waste created. New water management methods have reduced the amount of waste water produced and many countries demand that mines clean up the water to pre-set standards before they release it back into the environment.