The mining sector has a reputation for being one of the key industrial pollutants, but that is starting to change as mining companies search for more sustainable mining methods and greener practices that, over the next 10 years, could dramatically improve mining technologies. This would also make them more efficient and safer for the planet, and the people who work alongside mining communities.
Why Is Change So Important?
As climate change starts to take a measurable effect and we head towards critical tipping points, it’s important that all industries, not just mining, take responsibility for their role in the processes and practices that can lead to higher CO2 emissions.
“The last decades of the twentieth century saw 18% of the population consume 55% of the world’s energy and about 60% of global demand come from non-OECD countries, ” said energy expert Roberto Casula.
Over time, we’ll likely see a shift towards the utilization of renewable sources of energy being used as primary sources of power, and this is now a major focus for the mining industry, just as it is for manufacturing industries.
How mine site water is treated is starting to be made far more efficient. Chemical-free water treatments are being developed to help keep local freshwater supplies clean from the residual effects of mining operations, and more advanced desalination plants are aiming to achieve almost zero-waste facility status.
Recycling on site
We are starting to see mining organizations make a move towards the use of recyclable materials as standard practice. Especially in metal mining industries, where it saves costs as well as the environment.
Increasingly, mining companies are using simulation technology to train staff on heavy machinery and specialist mining techniques. Previously, this was done on-site using actual machinery, adding to emission output and more fuel use. Simulators reduce costs, environmental impact and are more efficient at training staff
Traditionally, the hydrometallurgical process used to extract gold from metal ore uses cyanide. The problem with cyanide is that it is extremely destructive to the environment. Technologists working towards more sustainable methodologies are developing ways to use chlorine rather than cyanide to create a far more sustainable process.
Measuring methane and carbon dioxide levels and removing them from the environment is a critical step towards more sustainable mining practices, and we will see far more efficient methods being developed over the next 10 years.
Vehicles that run on natural gasses or hydrogen are clean-burning and don’t produce anything more invasive the water vapor. This is no longer the stuff of science fiction, and over the next few years, we can predict a huge rise in the use of zero-emission vehicles across the mining industry.
Biomining is one of the most exciting modern, sustainable mining technologies. Instead of traditional extraction methods, biomining uses microorganisms to extract precious metals from rock ores and is an extremely green process. The copper mining industry is already using this technology, and we can expect widespread introduction across the industry until it becomes the standard process.