Technology, Mining & The Environment
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Alternate Text Amelia Inskipp
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Alternate Text 05 October 2021

Our last blog post investigated the impact technology has on the mining industry, with a focus on safety within mining. This week we are looking into the impact technology has on mining regarding the environment and the steps the industry takes to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Sustainability essentially means delivering results with the least amount of impact on the environment. In mining, this can be done by reducing the emission of pollutants and disposal of consumables to preserve water through using green technology.

‘Green technology’ refers to technology that will lessen carbon emissions and help to reduce the impact on the environment. Some of this technology includes battery-operated vehicles and low carbon technologies such as solar panels.

 

Two miners working; one drilling into the ground and one driving a haul truck

Using electric vehicles is a development being used across industries. Whether it's personal use cars, public transports, or heavy machinery, it is a trend that is growing rapidly; and it is not only environmentally friendly, but it is also economical.

Mining companies are starting to trial battery electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions from their operations. These types of vehicles are so beneficial to the environment as these vehicles do not emit much carbon and therefore reduce greenhouse gases emissions. 

A large mining truck could have a fuel tank as large as 1,000 gallons which is equivalent to the fuel in over 60 cars. Furthermore, each truck could need a refill every other day. Given the consumption of fuel on this scale, reducing it by using more battery electric vehicles means significant reductions in carbon emissions

There are also talks of solar power plants undergoing construction. Using renewable energy rather than fossil fuels to power these types of vehicles.

It is not just vehicles being tested on sites but also mining equipment. There is an increase in experimenting with hybrid diesel/electric or full electric machinery tools. Converting to these types of machinery over traditional fossil-fuelled powered vehicles not only means it is better for the environment but - as mentioned last week in the safety and mining post – also for workers due to the exhaust fumes these vehicles produce underground.

Red lagoon at the Lousal mine in Portugal

Not only are vehicles being adapted to help the environment, but also methods of disposal. In the mining industry wastage is a huge contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases especially water wastage. The mining industry has a huge effect on water resources, with statistics saying mining operations in the US withdrew 4 billion gallons of water. This water is then contaminated by polluting them with tailings or rock waste. Therefore, improving water efficiency is vital. 

Improving the efficiency of water is being tested through using methods such as thickened and paste tailings disposal. These not only help to minimise waste but also help to reuse this waste in an environmentally responsible manner.

 

Although there have been steps taken in the mining industry to become more environmentally friendly, we can’t wait to see what further developments will be made for this industry to become more sustainable and to see what new technology will allow this to do so.