Note: Article adapted from here.
The mining industry accounts for over 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Its processes leave behind severe environmental degradation, contaminated water beds and loss of plant and animal life. The world is in dire need of change. Mining companies are being forced to look for greener alternatives by watching their carbon footprint, switching to renewable energy sources and more. In an industry built around the extraction of non-renewable resources, it begs the question, is sustainability hypocritical green-washing? Or can their initiatives truly bring about change?
The unfortunate reality of the mining industry is that it leaves behind long lasting and widespread soil, air and water pollution. Entire ecosystems have been lost to the damage they have caused. International organisations like the UN are pushing mining companies to become more green through their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and holding them accountable for not meeting these standards. Even investors are focusing heavily towards companies that value Environmental, Social, and Governance Standards (ESG) and are pushing to divest from fossil fuel companies. Financial institutions have also been adding pressure to miners, The World Bank and IFC’s Climate Smart Mining program has been established to bring about a greener tomorrow. The world needs change now more than ever. Temperatures have been rising at unprecedented rates and we must alter our ways to prevent further loss of vital ecosystems, and natural calamities set to ensue.
Mining companies have taken steps towards reducing their size of impact. A goal has been set to reduce emissions by 10%; the Barrick Gold’s Zaldivar copper mine in Chile aims to achieve this by 2030. Their mine is completely run on renewable electricity generated by hydro, wind and solar power. Newmont Mining, in Ghana, will be investing millions into renewable energy over the next five years, to achieve their goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Mining companies have also begun using electric vehicles to mine and are investing in a circular economy by reusing wastewater and mine tailings. Some are even working towards land reclamation and revegetation of mined land. The industry is in an appalling need for an energy transformation. The shift away from carbon-based fuel sources is quintessential. However, this is a double edged sword. As more renewable energy infrastructure, like wind turbines and solar power are produced, more non-renewable metals must be mined to aid in their construction.
Although all of these initiatives have been pivotal in reducing the environmental footprint of mines, there is still a significant amount of illegal mining taking place all over the world that is mitigating the steps the industry has taken. Even though organisations and governments are stepping in, climate accountability is a very new issue and regulations are yet to be properly implemented. Renewable sources are also costly and disruptive to mining operations. The majority of mines are located in developing countries where profit is the top priority, the opportunity cost of lost earnings and time is far too much for them to bear. An alternative is imperative for the future.
Clean Mining, part of the Clean Earth Technologies Group, is one of the first companies in the world to develop an effective and commercially viable solution to get rid of toxic chemicals in gold ore processing.