Min­ing and En­vi­ron­ment Manage­ment

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business -

ZIM­BABWE is en­dowed with rich min­eral de­posits, dom­i­nated by two prom­i­nent ge­o­log­i­cal fea­tures namely the great dyke and an­cient Green­stone Belts also known as Gold Belts. The na­tion has seen an in­crease in the num­ber of min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in re­cent years, both small and large scale. On a pos­i­tive note, min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are cou­pled with em­ploy­ment cre­ation, rev­enue gen­er­a­tion and com­mu­nity projects. How­ever, min­ing in­evitably im­pacts neg­a­tively on the en­vi­ron­ment dis­turb­ing the land­scapes and ecosystems thereon.

Can min­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able?

Min­ing can be­come more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly through de­vel­op­ing and in­te­grat­ing prac­tices that re­duce the ad­verse en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of min­ing op­er­a­tions. Such good prac­tices in­clude; re­duc­ing in­puts that in­clude wa­ter and en­ergy con­sump­tion, min­i­miz­ing land dis­tur­bance, and waste pro­duc­tion, pre­vent­ing soil, wa­ter, and air pol­lu­tion at mine sites, and con­duct­ing suc­cess­ful mine clo­sure and recla­ma­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

Re­duc­ing in­puts be­come Wa­ter Wa­ter is used in a num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions at mine sites. By di­vert­ing sur­face wa­ter and pump­ing ground­wa­ter, min­ing op­er­a­tions can re­duce both the quan­tity and qual­ity of wa­ter avail­able down­stream for aquatic ecosystems and other in­dus­trial and mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter users, es­pe­cially in ar­eas with arid cli­mates. Closed wa­ter sys­tem whereby ef­flu­ent wa­ter is drained, col­lected and reused or re­cy­cled re­duces de­mand for fresh wa­ter and min­i­mizes re­sul­tant pol­lu­tion. En­ergy Min­ing and metal pro­cess­ing can be hy­per en­ergy-in­ten­sive. Some ex­am­ples of ways min­ing com­pa­nies are re­duc­ing their en­ergy con­sump­tion in­clude reliance on re­new­able and clean en­ergy sources such as so­lar and wind. Land dis­rup­tion Min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties use land at ev­ery stage of its cy­cle; ex­plo­ration, con­struc­tion, op­er­a­tion, clo­sure, and post-clo­sure. Veg­e­ta­tion is cleared for the con­struc­tion of build­ings, roads, and power lines, open pits or tun­nels are dug to gain ac­cess to the ore, and waste stor­age fa­cil­i­ties such as tail­ings ponds are ex­panded over the life of the mine, po­ten­tially lead­ing to habi­tat loss and de­for­esta­tion.

To re­duce the land-use im­pacts of min­ing, min­ers can re­duce, the over­all foot­print of the min­ing area, min­i­mize the amount of waste pro­duced and stored, main­tain bio­di­ver­sity by trans­plant­ing or cul­tur­ing any en­dan­gered plants found on site, and plan mines pro­cess­ing plants around ex­ist­ing in­fras­truc­ture wher­ever pos­si­ble.

Re­duc­ing out­puts Waste Mine waste in­cludes solid waste, mine wa­ter, and air par­ti­cles, which can vary sig­nif­i­cantly in their com­po­si­tion and po­ten­tial for en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tam­i­na­tion. In ad­di­tion to pre­vent­ing soil, wa­ter, and air pol­lu­tion, waste manage­ment plans are re­quired in or­der to se­lect and de­sign ap­pro­pri­ate stor­age fa­cil­i­ties for the large vol­umes of waste pro­duced at most mine sites.

It is gen­er­ally rec­og­nized that pre­vent­ing pol­lu­tion is more ef­fec­tive at re­duc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts and eco­nomic than clean­ing it up later on. Meth­ods for min­i­miz­ing and elim­i­nat­ing wastes in the pro­duc­tion of min­er­als and metal com­modi­ties in­clude: Us­ing cleaner pro­duc­tion tech­niques Us­ing waste as raw ma­te­rial, and

Re­duc­ing the amount of waste pro­duced through process re-en­gi­neer­ing.

Wa­ter manage­ment strate­gies are used to re­duce the vol­ume of waste wa­ter pro­duced, and if nec­es­sary, to treat it to an ac­cept­able qual­ity be­fore it is re­leased.

What leg­is­la­tion pro­motes en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able min­ing?

In Zim­babwe, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Manage­ment Act (CAP 20:27) of 2002 is the le­gal frame­work for en­vi­ron­men­tal manage­ment and min­ing is pre­scribed as an ac­tiv­ity where an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment is manda­tory be­fore such a project com­mences im­ple­men­ta­tion.

All min­ers should go through the En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact As­sess­ment (EIA) process which is an as­sess­ment for the pur­poses of iden­ti­fy­ing, pre­dict­ing, eval­u­at­ing and mit­i­gat­ing the bio­phys­i­cal, so­cial, and other rel­e­vant ef­fects of min­ing devel­op­ment pro­pos­als prior to ma­jor de­ci­sions be­ing taken and com­mit­ments made.

In ad­di­tion, the same law reg­u­lates mine waste dis­posal; solid, liq­uid and gas, con­trol­ling how waste can be dis­charged into the en­vi­ron­ment.

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