Green mining: Smart solution to sustainable growth
Environmental protection is an inevitable issue for the sustainable development of human society. We know that global greenhouse gas emissions come from industrial areas. Besides, mining is one of the core sources of greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve sustainable economic development and environmental protection, the mining industry must be green.
Economic growth means achieving long-term sustainability both in regards to planned production volumes and in meeting the needs of customers, as well as achieving economic efficiency obtained from the sale of the excavated mineral. Mineral resources are the foundation and essential driving force for economic development.
According to the United Nations, the world's population will rise to 9 billion while 3 billion new people will move to cities by 2050. The total consumption of metals will be higher in the future due to the increasing global population and numbers of middle-class people, although consumption per capita will be lower because of improved resource efficiency, recycling, better product design, and substitution of traditional metals by new materials.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report entitled "Towards Green Growth," policymakers should follow the concept of green growth. The economy needs to be flexible, dynamic, and efficient when using resources and imposing a mutual effect on the environment for its preservation. Innovation and investment are seen as drivers for green technology development.
Sustainable green technologies add much to a sustainable society while promoting environmental protection and economic development. Moreover, special attention should be paid to both determinants of sustainable green technology invention and differences between their development priorities. Mining activities can also contribute to sustainable development, particularly to its economic dimension. It can bring fiscal revenues to a country, drive economic growth, create jobs and contribute to building infrastructure.
Mining is relevant for most of the SDGs and has particularly strong impacts on Environmental Sustainability Goals- SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 15 (life on land), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 13 (climate action); Sustainable economic development goals- SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).
Green mining promotes materials and energy efficiency, which reduces the environmental footprint of mineral-based product life cycles. Methods that save energy and materials in extracting and the enriching of minerals have to be developed. The purpose of these new solutions is to allow the recovery of all useful minerals and by products and to minimize the amount of waste.
Solutions for reducing water and energy consumption are expanding. The lifespan of many mineral-based products is long together with commodities that are recyclable in most applications. Therefore, once produced, metals and minerals remain available for future generations. Sustainable societies will create effective mechanisms for recycling and reducing the growing need for primary resources.
Green Mining aims to ensure the availability of mineral resources for the future. Sustainable development requires that our current use of mineral resources does not endanger the ability of future generations to satisfy their needs. To ensure the availability of mineral resources for future needs and to fulfil the so-called "mineral debt", we must continue geo-scientific mapping and fact-findings, along with invest in mineral exploration.
Mining operations always impact the natural environment, economy and social structure of the region. The goal of Green mining is to minimize the adverse environmental and social impacts in all stages of the operations. At the same time, the operations strive to maximize social and local benefits.
Minimizing the adverse environmental impacts requires the development of better control and measurement methods that take into consideration the special characteristics of mining operations. Maximizing the societal, economic and cultural impacts of sustainably requires research, communication and methods that allow broad-based community participation.
Mining takes place in harsh conditions, often underground, employing heavy machinery and a variety of chemicals and explosives, which always involves potential safety hazards. Work must be organized in such a way that it is safe and meaningful to employees. This can be achieved by automating processes and making them more efficient, as well as by developing new practices and working methods in cooperation with the entire staff.
The need for occupational safety standards and practices as well as education aiming at a good working culture is self-evident. Occupational safety aiming at zero accidents is an important starting point in all development. Operations must also be safe for residents and the environment. Increasing automation and the development of technologies helps to reduce the need for a workforce and will improve safety.
Planning of the controlled ending of mining operations and the proper measures for achieving this is started well before the commencement of mining operations and is developing throughout the project's life cycle with the broad-based participation of residents and other stakeholders.
This requires upholding principles such as minimizing the depletion of non-renewable natural resources, the 'polluter pays' principle, the precautionary principle, resource efficiency, full costing and environmental impact assessments, public participation, transparency and accountability, and multi-stakeholder partnerships in the public interest.
The development of exploration, mining and processing techniques is also needed to discover and use a new genre of deposits. Exploration surveys for economic minerals should be performed in such a way that their impacts on the environment and surrounding societies remain minimal.
The concept of sustainable development in the mining sector needs to be more effectively operational. In order to do this, it is crucial to specify the sustainable development principles that are most relevant to green mining.
The writer is a student, Department
of Environmental Science & Engineering, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh