How Socially Responsible Mining is More Sustainable
The mining process gives us access to precious raw materials that can be used in an almost infinite number of ways. Many industries remain heavily reliant on being able to extract these resources. However, the process itself can cause long-lasting damage to local environments and communities. That’s the primary reason why there are growing calls for companies to engage in more socially responsible mining practices, whereby local communities can see a net positive impact from the process.
To help facilitate this environmentally-conscious drive within the mining industry, $450 billion was made available in green bonds in 2022, supporting ethical and sustainable mining projects across the globe. In this guide, we explore some of the ways in which socially responsible mining can protect local environments, to reduce the long-term impacts traditional methods can cause.
Leveraging eco-friendly equipment
Over many years, diesel has been the fuel of choice across the industry, used to power essential machinery. Unfortunately, gas-guzzling vehicles used in the process emit vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and diminish the planet’s non-renewable resources.
Fortunately, as more companies look to implement more sustainable policies across their operations, we’re seeing a rise in the amount of battery-powered machinery throughout the industry. By making this simple switch from diesel to battery power, mining companies have the opportunity to drastically lower their carbon footprint without reducing their output. It’s also important for any equipment used to be as durable as possible, to reduce the need for replacements and wasted materials.
Often, huge mining projects take place in developing countries where there’s already a shortage of essential resources like water. Socially responsible mining has to review the impact the process can have on the local water supply; not only does the operation use up huge amounts, but it also has the potential to contaminate existing supplies, regardless of which method is used.
One of the most hazardous techniques in this regard is in-situ mining, which dissolves soil by pumping chemicals into the ground. Sustainable mining can manage the risks by implementing pollution prevention strategies, such as diverting runoff water and optimizing water recycling processes. This will help to safeguard local water resources for humans, animals, and their habitats.
By the very nature of the process, there is a lot of potential for biodiversity to be negatively impacted in and around mining sites. However, socially responsible mining practices ensure that more is done before, during, and after the extraction process to not only protect the wildlife and their habitats, but to also help them to thrive. Even before the process has started, the laying of access roads can do significant damage to local ecosystems, highlighting the scope for habitat destruction.
To mitigate the potential impacts, there are plenty of things that responsible companies can keep in mind. From using lighter equipment that’s less destructive to plugging drill holes so small animals are less likely to become trapped, often the smallest changes can evoke the most positive outcomes. All of these things will boost the eco credentials of any mining operation, and encourage local biodiversity to flourish.
Mining for a more sustainable future
It’s clear that socially responsible mining can bring about vast benefits for local environments. While it may be challenging to turn around an industry that is used to its ways of operating, technological opportunities are making sustainable policies easier to implement, helping the entire sector to transition more quickly to less intensive mining practices. By investing in environmentally friendly equipment and practices, we can unlock the true value of our mines by doing more good than harm.