Environmental Impact of Mining and Mineral Processing: Management, Monitoring, and Auditing Strategies covers all the aspects related to mining and the environment, including environmental assessment at the early planning stages, environmental management during mine operation, and the identification of major impacts. Technologies for the treatment of mining, mineral processing, and metallurgical wastes are also covered, along with environmental management of mining wastes, including disposal options and the treatment of mining effluents.
- Presents a systematic approach for environmental assessment of mining and mineral processing projects
- Provides expert advice for the implementation of environmental management systems that are unique to the mining industry
- Effectively addresses a number of environmental challenges, including air quality, water quality, acid mine drainage, and land and economic impacts
- Explains the latest in environmental monitoring and control systems to limit the environmental impact of mining and processing operations
Ravi Jain is Dean and Professor of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, University of the Pacific, Stockton, California. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from California State University, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Texas Tech. He studied public administration and public policy at Harvard, earning an M.P.A. degree and did additional graduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Mining and mineral processing have significantly contributed to the advancement of human civilization and national economies, but they also have the potential to cause serious environmental degradation. As a result, the industry, with oversight by governmental agencies, is increasingly moving toward sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. The examination of mining and mineral processing trends reveals that production is increasing due to the demand from population growth, urbanization, and industrialization. The continual increase in demand is driving new mining developments throughout the world, as mineral commodities play increasingly larger roles in the economies of select countries. Developing mining and mineral processing projects, while minimizing adverse environmental impacts, poses a significant number of challenges. This book focuses on such challenges.
Sustainability; Challenges; Mining contribution index; GDP; Mineral production; Mining trends
1.1. Sustainable Development in Mining and Mineral Processing
The importance of mining and mineral extraction is best characterized by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) (2010)
, where it was stated that the history of human civilization is often characterized by periods such as the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Industrial Revolution, and Information Age. As can be seen, a common thread among all these epochs is the extraction of, processing, and utilization of materials from the earth (NAE, 2010
). For example, materials such as iron and coal fueled the industrial revolution, hydrocarbons and fertilizers fueled recent economic and population growth, and rare earth elements have been critical to the development of modern electronics (NAE, 2010
). While mining and mineral extraction have significantly contributed to the advancement of human civilization and national economies, they also have the potential for serious environmental degradation. Through the development of best management practices with sustainable development in mind, environmental threats from mining and mineral processing can be minimized. The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (1987)
defines sustainable development as "meet[ing] the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their needs." Sustainable development can also be viewed as a process that "involves the economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions of human existence" (United Nations, 2002
). Another related concept developed by John Elkington in 1994 suggests an appropriate balance is needed between economic prosperity, environmental quality, and social justice. As the world moves toward more sustainable practices, the mining and mineral processing industry will be profoundly impacted. Mining provides the raw materials found in virtually every product and service throughout the world. However, the long project life cycles for mining operations means companies are accustomed to long-term plans and operations are generally static (World Economic Forum Mining & Metals Industry Partnership and Accenture, 2014
). To assist the mining industry in the coming transition to a more sustainable world, the World Economic Forum (2014)
has identified several driving forces toward sustainability that will impact the mining industry: 1. Increased demand for fairness: Demand for more equal distribution of benefits and risks between the community, government, stakeholders, and industry 2. Increased "democratization": Demand for greater transparency, regulations, and standards to create a level playing field 3. Increased environmental concerns: Renewed focus on the sustainable management of the environment, climate, water resources, and biodiversity 4. Generational changes: New values will begin to emerge in leadership, government, and society 5. Rapid development of technology: New technologies will transform current operations and processes 6. Shifts in global production: Mining and production will increase in remote, undeveloped, and previously inaccessible areas 7. Increased concerns about artisanal and small-scale mining: Holding small-scale operations accountable to the same standards as large operations In response to these drivers, the International Council on Mining & Metals (2013)
, the World Economic Forum (2014)
, and the World Coal Association (2014)
have identified major aspects of sustainable development that need to be focused on in relation to mining and mineral processing: Investing in research and development of new technologies Encourage re-use, recycling, and responsible disposal of waste products Adopting management strategies based on collected data and sound science Continual reduction of environmental impacts and protection of biodiversity Continual reduction of emissions Protecting water resources Commitments to health and safety, human rights, cultural preservation, fair employment, and employee training Contributing to the social, economic, and institutional well-being of local communities Engaging communities, stakeholders, and governments Fostering trustworthiness, transparency, and ethical business practices Incorporate sustainable development ideas in the corporate decision-making process Maintaining good governance Despite the identification of areas that require improvement by the mining and mineral processing industry, there remain significant challenges related to sustainable development.
1.2. Challenges Related to Sustainable Development
To move toward sustainable development, NAE (2010)
noted the following scientific and technical challenges that need to be overcome: 1. Making the Earth "transparent" a. Because the Earth is solid, it is difficult to understand processes that occur underground. Improved tools are needed to discover, delineate, and identify subsurface resources, to be able to identify the flow of fluids and contaminants in the subsurface, and to detect and monitor fractures in rock structures. Current technologies that contribute to the improved "transparency" include geophysical examinations, a wide range of survey techniques that allow everything from large-scale investigations to microscopic investigations. These techniques include large scale (e.g., airborne, electromagnetic, and magnetic imaging and synthetic aperture radar measurements), medium scale (e.g., seismic waves and pumping and tracer tests), and small scale techniques such as well logging. Imaging technology such as 3D X-ray tomography scanning, 3D scanning electron microscope imaging, and acoustic and confocal microscopy are useful when researching fluid flows in the subsurface on a small scale. b. These technologies will enable a more accurate and precise estimate of the Earth's resources. They will also increase safety and decrease risk by increasing the knowledge of fracture locations, stability of structures, and potential contamination pathways. 2. Understanding, engineering, and controling subsurface processes a. Underground mechanical, biological, chemical, thermal, and hydrological processes are highly complex and are often coupled together. Understanding how these processes interact is further complicated by the effects of differing time scales and physical dimensions. As numerical simulation models depend on the accuracy of the equations used to simulate these interactions, model results can only be as good as the current understanding of interactions. A better understanding of these interactions will benefit the exploration of minerals, surface and underground mining, in-situ mining operations, predicting transport and fate of contaminants in groundwater, and earthquake mechanics. 3. Minimize environmental footprint a. The extraction of mineral resources and the consequential need for the disposal of wastes, slurry, and water can have major environmental implications. Mining and mineral processing activities can generate massive amounts of toxic, corrosive, or flammable material. If released to the environment, these contaminants can have major impacts on surface water, groundwater, air, and land resources (NAE, 2010
). The reduction of environmental impacts can be influenced by public expectations, best management practices, new legislation, and improvements in technology. Improvements in technology needed to decrease the impact of mineral processing on the environment include (NAE, 2010
): - Reduce high energy consumption for grinding and slurry transport - Develop separation techniques that use fewer chemical reagents - Develop chemical reagents that are less toxic and more environmentally friendly - Develop environmentally acceptable techniques for disposal of tailings that usually contain toxic reagents - Develop models to predict the separation efficiency,...