Miners evolve measures for zero carbon footprints

Mining companies have chosen to using electric mobile fleets for reduced fuel consumption and improved air quality, as well as using remote operations, where mobile mining equipment is operated from surface.

These are among the new measures adopted to achieve zero carbon footprints, which also include using variable speed ventilation fans to reduce energy consumption; using “Smart Tracking” to allow for optimized operation of ventilation and fleet management; and optimizing extraction method to reduce the amount of waste material.

The measures followed five years ago, a report by the Carbon Disclosure Project found half of the world’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions could be traced back to just 50 companies.

Mining operations, particularly those in coal extraction, ranked high on the list, even as companies struggle to drastically minimize their carbon footprint and “green” their activities.

As an industry that relies on non-renewable resources and depends on delicate geopolitical factors, experts insist that successful mining operations require a future-focused approach. 

This is because the industry has always relied on utilizing non-renewable resources, even as technology, practices, and environmental knowledge has evolved nearly beyond recognition.

Admitting that mining is a relatively risky business venture, and capital expenditures and large-scale new project approvals are limited, they however believe that with stronger financial and strategic acumen, there is great potential to do more with less.

This, they said, requires expertise to balance the shifting sands of our emerging geopolitical, societal, financial, technological and climate landscapes. Mining operations need expert advisors who can foresee and balance these future risks especially in the area of sustainability and achieving zero-footprint mines.

They identified ways mining ways their operations can be friendlier.

For instance, if mines aren’t properly closed and reclaimed after use, they can present a significant hazard to the surrounding environment. There may be hazardous waste on the premises, which can contaminate soil and water — not to mention posing harm to nearby human and animal populations.

“The easiest way to close and reclaim a mine is to minimize the disturbance it causes in the first place. Site selection plays a large role in this, but so do the sustainable mining practices discussed above. Good upfront planning around closure and reclamation is also more financially sustainable, leading to much smaller upfront costs when it comes to putting up a closure plan surety bond.

They also suggested the application of a circular economy approach, since mining operations will always produce some amount of waste material and by-products, which they think could be turned into re-usable, financially valuable assets instead of simply storing or thrashing them. This way they extend the lifecycle of materials that, hitherto, would have been considered waste. 

They argued that these measures “will go far toward creating a more sustainable future for mining operations, both fiscally and environmentally. And the timing couldn’t be better.”

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