Importance of Environmental Management in Mining

By now, we all know that mining impacts the environment. Sadly, this is more negatively than positively. In an effort to reduce this and make mining more sustainable, ecosystems and natural systems such as plants, soils, animals, air and water have to be responsibly managed.

To do this, the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining has come up with a list of key issues that various governments should look into and effectively manage in order to reach the sustainability goals. These issues are:

  • Biodiversity and the ecosystem
  • Water management
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Mine waste management
  1. Biodiversity and the ecosystem

In order to reduce the harmful effects mining has on biodiversity and the ecosystem, we first need to understand how mining affects biodiversity. A mining project affects biodiversity directly through:

  • Air, soil, noise and water pollution
  • Habitat loss
  • Ecosystem degradation and fragmentation

Indirectly, mining affects biodiversity through:

  • The unintentional introduction of invasive/non-native species to an ecosystem
  • Human migration to seek opportunities
  • Increased fishing, gathering, hunting and land clearance for agricultural purposes

Governments need to weigh the development and economic needs of a community against environmental and conservation goals when considering the benefits of proposed mining projects.

  1. Water management

The mining industry uses water in many ways for many operations, from slurry transport to ore processing. The larger the mining operation, the more water being used. Currently, water resources are getting scarce due to:

  • Variable precipitation
  • Climate change
  • Increased agricultural and industrial activity because of growing populations

To protect the water resources, governments need to make sure that water management is implemented in mines, at the site, across watersheds and beyond borders.

  1. Mine waste management

Mine waste comes from various mining processes which deal with mineral extraction. Mine waste may contain reactive minerals. In mining, waste management incorporates various disciplines, from geochemistry and geology to geotechnical engineering and civil engineering. Waste rock and tailings storage facilities and leach pads are structures that need to be well engineered for both stability and safety of workers as well as the general public.

To ensure waste rock facilities are being maintained and the storage facilities have been properly constructed, governments should set standards within their own jurisdictions that govern them.

  1. Emergency preparedness

This is about the likelihood of an emergency situation occurring and its consequences and the actions taken to prevent it from occurring or responding appropriately to the situation while effectively communicating. This is in relation to:

  • Health emergencies
  • Climate-related and natural disasters
  • Industrial emergencies

Governments have a critical role to play in emergency preparedness and should ensure that responses are organized, swift and coordinated and all individuals are protected and safe.

One interesting mining company you should watch is GoldHaven Resources Corp. (CSE: GOH) (OTCQB: ATUMF). It focuses on acquiring and exploring mineral-rich properties, and they recently announced that they had signed agreements to acquire seven gold projects in Chile.

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