How to Minimize the Environmental Impact of Your Mining Operations

The mining industry is growing behind a steady demand for its products. Whether it’s coal or gas, precious metals, or industrial ores being quarried, your mining operations will be serving the needs of increasing numbers of people and businesses in our developing world.

Yet at the same time, growing calls for sustainability amid our changing environment have led many businesses to act now and start managing their impact on the environment. Mines are no exception; like any other business, you’ll benefit in the long term by reducing your operating costs while also contributing to a safer environment with responsible practices, especially in water management. Here are three areas for your immediate improvement.

Improve systems efficiency

Each mining site faces its unique challenges – and the nature of the operation will also go a long way towards shaping the requirements of your equipment and systems. However, all mines can benefit from equipment with greater resistance to wear, abrasion, and corrosion.

The qualities of water being handled in your mine, such as temperature, acidity or alkalinity, and the size and amount of solid particles present, will all expose your pipes, valves, and seals to varying levels of corrosion and abrasion. Using hardened metal parts in your heavy-duty pipelines and submersible slurry pumps will increase their durability while handling large volumes. Thus, you make fewer replacements over time, and your fluid transfer operations are faster and more cost-effective.

Reclaiming water

Mining site

Due to the rising demand for sustainability across industries worldwide, businesses are increasingly looking towards reusing and treatment solutions when it comes to wastewater. Your mine is no exception – our industry typically has one of the biggest impacts on freshwater usage in any given region.

In many areas, mines tend to draw heavily upon groundwater resources, which may already be scarce, to begin with. Combined with the mine’s need to draw out water, an improperly managed mine could deplete local groundwater supply and potentially cause pollution of nearby bodies of water.

Following the recent thrust of the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), several companies have begun to embrace its vision in their role as water stewards. By engaging with local stakeholders and implementing water reclamation systems, these mines can treat their wastewater and reuse some of it for their operations while delivering the rest to the local communities. Consider investing in your treatment system suited to the nature of contaminated water at your site, and you can minimize your ecological impact while fostering goodwill among the residents.

Use seawater

In some locations, it may be possible to use seawater for your mine’s operations. By changing the source of your water supply, you avoid drawing from the precious local freshwater resources that hold such importance for local communities and ecosystems alike.

Using saltwater presents a challenge, but the ICMM report cites at least two successful case studies. Those mines invested in pipelines to transport saltwater from distances of 50 to 145 kilometers, and an array of desalination processes to render it suitable for both mining purposes and distribution to local reservoirs. This sort of solution eliminates the problem of sourcing water so that you only have to focus on the efficiency of the desalination and filtration process.

As the mining industry continues to grow amid environmental uncertainty and growing strain on resources, continue to monitor trends and look for opportunities to make your site sustainable – it will minimize your carbon footprint and keep you in business in the long term.