How can mining help uncover a more sustainable future?

08 Oct 2019

How can mining help uncover a more sustainable future?

Like it or not, we need mined minerals to meet many of the ecological challenges ahead. How are some mining companies rising to that challenge?

In 2018, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre expert Matt Jones declared: “A global energy transition to address climate change will create new and vital markets for mined materials.”

“If we want battery technology to support electric vehicles, we need lithium. Construction of solar panels and wind turbines are reliant on mined materials. While we continue to advocate for higher recycling rates of these metals, much will need to be mined to support a global shift.”

Sustainable mining requires companies to better understand the value of biodiversity both to their long-term operations and to local communities. That much is self-evident.

The question is: what are they doing about it, especially as so many minerals are now integral to a sustainable future?

Here are just some of the many new innovations being deployed by mining companies around the world.

Anglo-American is using:

  • Continuous hard rock mining deep underground without the need for explosives
  • A waterless mine where precious resources are extracted without the need for freshwater
  • A concentrated mine that delivers more metal and less waste
  • An intelligent mine that is smart, connected and learns from itself

Global mining innovations

Canadian mining company B2Gold has built a seven-megawatt solar plant to power the operation of its Otjikoto mine in Namibia. 

Caterpillar’s Underground Mining group is testing a proof-of-concept battery electric LHD (load, haul, dump machine) at a mine site located in Canada.

The Sustainable Underground Mining (SUM) collaboration is looking at autonomous, intelligent CO2-free machines.

Rio Tinto’s integrated biodiversity assessment tool can screen for and respond to potential impacts on biodiversity at and around its sites. 

Global mining’s talent challenge

The last word on the future of mining must go to Lauren van Halderen, Joint Managing Director, Odgers Berndtson, Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Answering the sustainability challenge is a challenge to an industry that already suffers from a talent shortage thanks to a combination of poor industry reputation and lack of diversity. Companies like BHP are already committing to half its workforce being female by 2015. Any workforce of the future will also have to have enhanced digital skills as the innovations mentioned above begin to come on-stream.”

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