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Friday, 27 February 2015

Achieving Sustainability in Mining

There's so much that our planet gives us for our consumption. These things come in different shapes and sizes, and some of the most abundant of them are minerals. Minerals are essential for living in these modern times, and when it comes to extracting them, mining is still the primary method used.

One of the biggest issues that any industry faces is sustainability, and the mining sector is certainly no exception to it. Some of the things that serve to constrain sustainability in this industry are the ever-increasing demand minerals, the consumption of resources that are needed to extract and process metals, as well as the pollution caused by the process of extracting them.

Increasing Demand for Minerals

There's no question that there's growth in the extraction of construction minerals. As more and more countries become more industrialized, the demand for such minerals is almost directly proportional to the growth in the construction industry. In the 20th century, we saw a growth in the extraction of construction materials. Demand for ores and industrial minerals also increased.


Aside from the obvious impact mining has on the environment, it can also have a negative social impact. In order to keep up with the demand for mined resources, there's also a subsequent increase in mining activities to meet such demand. During the course of conducting such activities, there can be times when certain things are overlooked, including the short, medium and even long-term effects of mining activities in the community where they are done. This is then where there arises a need to balance the economic benefits of mining versus its potential harmful effects on the environment.

Sustainability and Maximizing Mining Benefits

There are ways to maximize the benefits we can get from mining as we improve sustainability both on the environmental and social fronts. This was specifically addressed in the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. It identified three priority areas:

a. Support efforts to address the environmental, economic, health and social impacts and benefits of mining, minerals and metals throughout their life cycle;

b. Enhance the participation of stakeholders, including local and indigenous communities and women, to play an active role in minerals, metals and mining development throughout the life cycles of mining operations; and

c. Foster sustainable mining practices through the provision of financial, technical and capacity-building support to developing countries and countries with economies in transition for the mining and processing of minerals.

As long as efforts are made for mining to be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, we can enjoy the many benefits of mining without worrying about and suffering the potentially harmful effects mining can have on people and nature.


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