Mines will continue to play a role in the future and by implementing long-term strategies for the environment they will contribute to development of South Africa.
This is according to Interwaste director: business development and marketing Kate Stubbs.
“Despite the large impact mines have on the environment, mining is a significant contributor to our economy from both a financial and an employment perspective,” states Stubbs.
South Africa is far ahead of the global marketplace when it comes to waste management legislation, setting the benchmark for innovation in the industry – driving companies to derive better, more suitable waste management solutions.
This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 10 2018
Presently, mine waste in South Africa is predominantly still being land-filled at owned or third-party facilities.
However, leading mines are shifting to zero waste to landfill strategies and have commenced this journey by separating their waste streams as well as finding alternative use for them such as recycling, reuse or re-purposing.
Tracking the trends
The global trends of zero waste to landfill and circular economy are challenging the status quo of how mine waste works.
The latest trends to minimise the negative impacts of mining encourage a mindset of avoiding waste, then minimising it, recycling, reducing, and recovering and as a last option, disposing waste to landfill.
Stubbs explains that consumers being more mindful of how they make, consume and dispose of products are also adding impetus to these zero waste to landfill trends.
The impact of these trends and the consumer pressure is seeing many companies implement zero waste to landfill or at least put waste reduction strategies in place as part of their business goals.
“There is also an opportunity for mines as well to extract value from their waste or at least reduce operating costs by managing their waste more effectively.”
It is critical that any business going forward incorporate its environmental impact into its business processes from beginning to end.
From the sourcing of various raw materials, to the production and final consumption/route to market, Stubbs highlights that companies need to understand the generation of waste in each process to ensure the long-term commercial and environmental viability of the business.
It is already a requirement for a full Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) to be undertaken before the commencement of any new mining project.
Once this has been completed, it is important for the mine to understand the report thoroughly and plan operational activities accordingly.
Stubbs explains that this is also a good opportunity for the mine to consider the environmental impact on the entire supply chain of the mine upfront so as to minimise waste production wherever possible.
There are severe consequences on the environment from mines and other industries which have operated without considering environmental impacts historically.
“These not only affect our land, air and water systems but have also affected the health and well-being of society as well as the long-term sustainability of South Africa’s natural resources,” she notes.
Consequently, in an ongoing effort to be environmentally conscious mining companies must put robust sustainability strategies in place and stay abreast of ongoing legislative changes regulating the generation and disposal of various waste streams as well as new technologies providing alternative solutions for processing different waste streams.