The Importance of Environmental Management in Mining
A mine will always impact the environment, but the question is to what degree?
The responsible management of natural resources and ecosystems such as soils, plants, animals, water and air, and the services they provide, is central to the efforts of any society seeking to become more sustainable.
The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining “IGF” has identified four issues that governments could effectively manage to reach sustainability goals.
- Water Management
- Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
- Mine Waste Management
- Emergency Preparedness
These four key issues are critical for governments and communities to consider to ensure mining and the environment can coexist for the benefit of all.
Issue #1: Water Management
According to the IGF, U.S. mining operations used 5,526 million cubic meters of water, amounting to 1% of the country’s total water use in 2015.
Mining is a very water intensive industry. In mineral processing, slurry transport, dust suppression, and to meet the water needs of employees, large-scale mining operations use significant amounts of groundwater and surface water across the mine life cycle.
Mining operations need water to process ore and run camp operations. Mines also need to manage water that comes in contact with operations, through rainfalls and runoff.
The protection of water resources applies to both surface and groundwater, and these water resources are increasingly under strain due to:
- Climate change
- Variable precipitation
- Growing populations, increased industrial and agricultural activity
Competing demands for water resources from the mining sector, agriculture, households, from other industries and sectors, and for conservation and leisure—ensure that governments will always play a critical role in water management throughout the life of a mine, not only at the site itself but across watersheds and beyond national borders.
Issue #2: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Mining projects have the potential to impact biodiversity and ecosystem services throughout their lifecycle. Understanding how mining can impact biodiversity is vital to mitigate the harmful impacts of mining on the biodiversity and ecosystem
Biodiversity delivers many benefits to their surrounding communities known as ecosystem services—and a mining project has direct and indirect impacts before, during and after mining operations on these services.
- Habitat loss
- Ecosystem fragmentation and degradation
- Water, air, soil and noise pollution
- Human migration seeking opportunities
- Increased hunting, fishing, gathering and land clearance for agriculture
- Unintentional introduction of invasive species to an ecosystem
Governments, when considering the merits of a proposed mining project, will have to weigh the economic and development needs of the country and the local community against its conservation and environmental goals.
Issue #3: Mine Waste Management
Mining moves and processes large amounts of materials to extract metals. The excess material is known as mine waste. Mine wastes can contain minerals that are reactive which could be released from the rock when it is mined, crushed, and exposed to air and water.
Mine waste makes up the largest amount of material that is mined. The strip ratio defines how much waste rock there is compared to valuable ore. For example, a 2:1 strip ratio means that mining one tonne of ore will require mining two tonnes of waste rock.
Waste management in mining is complex and incorporates a range of disciplines, including geology, geochemistry, civil engineering, and geotechnical engineering.
Waste rock storage facilities, leach pads, and tailings storage facilities are large structures that must be carefully engineered to ensure they are stable over time and the safety of workers and the public.
Governments should set international standards within their own jurisdictions to ensure the proper construction and maintenance of waste rock facilities.
Issue #4: Emergency Preparedness
Emergency preparedness involves understanding the likelihood of an emergency situation and its potential consequences, taking proactive action to prevent the hazard, preparing to mitigate emergency effects, responding appropriately, communicating effectively, and recovering afterwards.
This relates to:
- Industrial emergencies
- Natural and climate-related disasters
- Health emergencies
- Political and security risk
Governments have a strong role to play in emergency preparedness, ensuring that responses are swift, organized and coordinated, and that all relevant stakeholders, from local communities to staff, are safe and protected.
Resources and Communities
Mineable deposits occur in both convenient and inconvenient places, close to or distant from communities, close to or distant from water sources, and close or distant from farm land or ecologically sensitive areas.
Mining will always have an impact. The active and sustainable management of these natural resources before, during, and after mining will help to avoid negative impacts where possible and could even mean excluding mining.
A failure to manage the four issues of mining on the environment can threaten the viability of operations, but can also undermine the relationships between a mining company, affected communities, and all levels of government.
The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining “IGF” is creating the policy framework to address the importance of environmental management in mining.
Safe Spaces: Why Indoor Air Quality Has Never Mattered More
Proper indoor air quality prevents airborne viruses like COVID-19 from spreading, and require technical solutions so businesses run smoothly.
Why Indoor Air Quality Has Never Mattered More
Indoor air quality affects everyone, but many of us take it for granted.
From workplaces and retail spaces to restaurants and long-term care facilities, any air-conditioned or heated space needs good ventilation. Proper airflow in indoor spaces is also critical for curbing the spread of airborne viruses such as COVID-19, especially as more and more of these communal places open back up.
This visualization from mCloud looks at why indoor air quality matters, and unearths potential technical solutions that can help keep people safe and ensure businesses run smoothly.
Silent Threats: The Viral Potential of Airborne Viruses
Most respiratory diseases, including the flu virus and COVID-19 are transmitted through three typical methods.
- Contact Transmission
Through direct contact
- Droplet Transmission
Through close-proximity, large respiratory droplets
- Airborne Transmission
Through small droplets suspended in air
It’s this last factor in particular to keep an eye out for. In a study, over half (53%) of flu patients produced aerosol particles of the virus while coughing—and viral droplets can travel more than 10 meters when exhaled by an infected person. In addition, pollutants and other small particles are 2-5x more concentrated indoors.
While most respiratory diseases are preventable, it’s clear that handwashing and social distancing are not enough. Alongside other measures, experts recommend improved ventilation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in indoor spaces.
Avoid Sick Building Syndrome with Good Indoor Air Quality
Prior to the pandemic, 157 million people in the U.S. workforce spent the majority of their waking hours in shared areas like offices, stores, and more. In fact, there are 5.9 million commercial buildings in the U.S. alone, totaling 97 billion ft².
Within these indoor spaces, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems help to keep the air fresh. But have you ever gone to work and realized that there’s a flu bug that everyone seems to be catching? Poor air flow could be the culprit behind what’s called “Sick Building Syndrome”.
Most buildings are designed to recirculate air to boost energy efficiency. However, this doesn’t always occur evenly—causing air to stagnate.
If what should be fresh air becomes stagnant air instead, this can result in the distribution of allergens and pathogens, including COVID-19 and the flu. Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Cognitive issues
- Dry throat
- Skin irritation
Studies show that air-conditioned buildings exhibit a higher prevalence of workers with these symptoms compared to naturally ventilated buildings. Many different types of buildings are at risk—although air is replaced in operating rooms every 3-6 minutes, it is only replaced every few hours in office buildings.
Proven Solutions to Keep Spaces Safe
Indoor air quality has a significant impact on containing respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. In fact, proper air ventilation can have the same impact as vaccinating 50-60% of people in a building.
mCloud partners with businesses to help augment their technical needs, and help manage workplace challenges associated with indoor health risks.
|Workplace Challenges||mCloud’s Strategies|
|Aerosol transmission is a main contributor to respiratory illnesses||Use technical solutions that include constant monitoring|
|Improved airflow is critical to reopening infrastructure and ramping up operations||Improve humidity levels: spikes in respiratory infections occur when humidity drops below 40%|
|Solutions must be cost-efficient, but measuring and improving indoor air quality is extremely difficult||Improve indoor air quality with ventilation and filtration technology|
Semiconductor-grade cleanrooms—filtered, controlled environments—improve HVAC systems, allowing for remote monitoring, and temperature and humidity control.
How do mCloud’s solutions help improve indoor air quality?
- HVAC & Ventilation
Full ventilation that maximizes influx of outside air
- Filtration & Purification
Ionization and ultraviolet light can capture and kill up to 99.9% of viruses, including COVID-19
Real-time monitoring by an expert team, with 24/7 monitoring
- 24/7 Compliance
Businesses ensure they meet local and federal safety guidelines
Combining connectivity with air purification can improve HVAC systems, allowing for remote monitoring, temperature and humidity control. This can result in a 95% reduction in airborne particles (compared to standard filtration in operating rooms), and could have a 95% pathogen kill rate within just three hours.
As a myriad of shared places from offices to retail stores reopen, physical safety and health is a top priority for employers. Businesses can partner with experts to create healthy, safe spaces that protect people, companies, and entire industries.
The Golden State: A Closer Look at Mining in California
California is known as the Golden State for its rich history of gold mining. Today, it remains one of the largest states for mining in the U.S.
The Golden State: A Closer Look at Mining in California
California is known as the Golden State for its history of gold production in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the mining industry continues to build on its rich history to this day.
With roughly $4.7 billion worth of non-fuel minerals produced in 2020, the Golden State is one of the largest states for mining and the sole source of rare earth elements in the United States.
The above infographic from KORE Mining highlights how California earned its famous nickname, and how its mining industry continues to shine today, just like its gold.
How the Golden State Found its Name
Back in the late 1770s, during the period of Spanish colonization in California, a group of Spaniards discovered gold in Imperial County, and small-scale mining began. However, it was not until 1848 that gold mining really kicked off.
In 1848, James Marshall—a carpenter and sawmill operator—went down to the American River in Coloma to inspect progress on a sawmill under construction, and saw something that defined the future of California’s economy.
“My eye was caught by something shining in the bottom of the ditch. . . . I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold. . . Then I saw another.”
— James Marshall via Library of Congress.
As word spread, thousands of prospectors and gold-seekers made their way to California in search of their own shiny nuggets in an event now known as the Gold Rush. In fact, the influx of migrants was so large that they came to be known as the “forty-niners”, named after the year they started arriving. By 1855, miners had extracted over 12 million ounces of gold, and the Gold Rush neared its end.
Over a century later, in 1968, “the Golden State” became California’s official nickname for both its prolific gold discoveries and golden poppy fields. By this time, most historical gold mines had ceased operations, but for California’s mining industry, it was just the beginning.
Mining in California Today
Although California is well-known for Hollywood and Silicon Valley, it remains one of the most important states for mining in the country.
As of 2018, there were 739 mines in California producing 23 different commodities, from gold and rare earths to boron and construction minerals. Due to the industry’s size and significance, mining plays an important role in the Golden State’s economy.
In 2020, California’s mining industry generated:
- $7.3 billion in labor income
- $13.6 billion in GDP
- 99,120 direct and indirect jobs
Mining companies in California benefit from access to clean energy, infrastructure, and well-established transport networks. Additionally, the Golden State is also known for its high reclamation standards, which ensure that mining sites are returned to their original undisturbed states, reducing the environmental impact of mines.
The Future of Gold in California: Imperial County
Imperial County has a place in history with California’s first known gold discovery in the 1770s. Its golden history continues today with KORE’s Imperial Project, one of the largest gold discoveries in California, and the Mesquite Mine—California’s largest gold mine—which has been producing gold since 1985.
With its rich history, active mining industry, and up-and-coming gold discoveries, California will always remain the Golden State, and Imperial County has the potential to carry forward its legacy.
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