Mining companies are placing a much greater emphasis on being sustainable because of the necessity to acquire and sustain a license to operate while also reducing costs.
This is according to Emilie Ditton, VP for WW Mining & A/P Energy Insights at International Data Corporation.
This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 10 2018
“Mining companies have a requirement to ensure that they have a positive impact on the communities around them. The requirement and desire to do that more proactively is increasing,” stares Ditton.
From a sustainability and environmental perspective, IDC is seeing an increasing alignment between efficiency and resource utilisation drivers and cost, particularly in the energy space.
Mining companies are looking at how they can save on their diesel costs by looking at electric vehicles or having big solar based plants.
In the last two years IDC has seen mining companies looking at utilising those types of technologies much more.
Another important focus area in terms of resources efficiency drive is water utilisation.
That is critically important in South Africa, particularly within gold mining processes, but across the world companies are putting substantial R&D efforts into mining methods and approaches that reduce water consumption wherever possible.
In addition Ditton notes that most of the leading mining companies are focusing on minimising the utilisation of resources, because it also ties in with managing the licence to operate considerations and being responsible.
Mining companies are wanting and needing to ensure that they have as little impact as possible. What that means is that at the end of the life of the mine, the land reconstruction and restoration work is a very important part of what they do.
That has always been an important part of mining operations, particularly where toxic chemicals form part of the mining process, ensuring that those have the lowest impact possible.
“However, the lives of people are always going to be a top priority for mining companies.”
Ditton puts forward that while we are not likely to see mining companies becoming the most environment-friendly companies in the world, they certainly have a big responsibility to take care of the land that their company profits from.
That’s a very big part of the relationship that they have with the governments in the countries they operate in – and from a licence perspective ensures as far as possible that the land is returned to as close as possible the state that it was in previously.
“This includes looking at new mining methods that have as little impact as possible. They are also looking at how they can extract material with as few disruptive stages as possible. And, of course, they need to look at how they can minimise the use of toxic chemicals in the mining process, as this is another really disruptive element.”
There is a lot of activity across research bodies globally in terms of looking at how the current technology stack enables new mining methods that reduce the impact on the environment.
“And that forms a very important part of the research and development work that mining companies are involved with and investing in.”