What is Green Mining – and why it needs investments
I cannot think of many industries as invasive on the environment as mining. In the webinar “Green Mining – How can Miners be More Sustainable?” Tim Harvey, CEO of NTree, and Anton Berlin of Norilsk Nickel discussed how mining can become more sustainable and respect ESG principles.
As said before, mining is of course invasive by nature. Like any other industry, mining is working and investing in ways to compensate for its impact on the environment.
Green Mining, explained
The source of power used in mines is the first important choice. Renewable sources have a low or zero carbon footprint, but they are not widely available in all countries. Miners can then work on power and energy efficiency: the less you consume, the lesser the impact.
Mining activities require water. And it can come from rivers or lakes nearby, or from underground flows. Can this water be purified and used again in extraction activities? Cool. If not, miners must assess how much water they are releasing into the environment – and make sure it is not polluted and does not damage the environment.
The soil around (or above) a mine can be polluted by dust, components of machiners, waste of minerals, and so on. Miners must ensure that no toxic substances are released into the soil. When an open-cast mine is being closed, companies normally bring new, fertile soil in the area and plant vegetation.
Mining can pollute the air because of the dust produced, for example, or because the machinery runs on gasoline.
Different kinds of mines
Mines can have a huge impact on the landscape, too. But this is particularly true for open-cast mines, that destroy the original soil on the surface. Underground mining preserves vegetation and animals.
In the last 20 years, mining regulation has become stricter, especially in countries like Australia. Mining companies are required to rebuild landscape and wildlife: an expensive activity that must be taken into account from the very first phases of planning a new mine.
Mining and ESG: beyond the Green
The mining industry is also looking at its Social impact, inside and outside companies. Employees rights and healthcare measures have always been a hot topic in such a labour-intensive sector.
But mines are often in rural areas (think about Australia, again, or Canada), inhabited by local communities and, sometimes, by indigenous populations. And the industry must mitigate the impact on this “human landscape”, too.
And then, of course, comes the Governance. Mining companies need to prove to everyone (the market, the public opinion, investors, shareholders, and so on) that they respect sustainability standards. Transparency and certifications are needed inside the company and along the supply chain: all the suppliers, no matters what.
Green Mining challenges: blockchain, consumers, green washing
A huge help on the transparency challenge may come from blockchain technology. Once you have created a workflow of information along the value chain, the sustainability of the metal you offer on the market will be certified and tracked. In the near future, manufacturers are likely to look for raw materials with these “green credentials”.
At least, they will if consumers start paying attention to where the metals inside their devices come from. This of rare-earth metals from Taliban’s Afghanistan or from African countries where workers have no labour rights.
Consumers' pressure can force mining to take the sustainable way.