environmental impacts of mining

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The mineral industries and Mining activities, in general, cause extensive environmental damage. Dealing with them is in many cases technically possible, but the cost is often prohibitive in an industry. Two of the most important tools for controlling environmental accidents are the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is a statutory requirement, and the voluntary tool Environmental Management System (EMS). Despite EIA being demanded by law in most countries there are no general definitions of the processes or the report. Identification of techniques and, more particularly, clear and unequivocal evidence regarding environmental impacts at all stages of production are becoming quite relevant. An attempt has been made in this paper to identify various aspects needed in order to improve environmental standard of the surroundings. Thus, Environmental impact assessment and approvals management are fundamental for minimising risk and maximising outcomes.

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  • Environmental Impacts of Mining: Identifying aspects of EIA and EMS in order to improve environmental standard

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Author: Partha Das Sharma, B.Tech(Hons.) in Mining Engineering, E.mail: sharmapd1@gmail.com, Blog: http://miningandblasting.wordpress.com/

    1

    Environmental Impacts of Mining

    ***

    Identifying various Aspects of Environmental Impact

    Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management System

    (EMS) in order to Improve Environmental Standard of the

    surroundings.

    Author: Partha Das Sharma, B.Tech(Hons.) in Mining Engineering, E.mail: sharmapd1@gmail.com,

    Blogs/Websites: http://miningandblasting.wordpress.com/ , http://saferenvironment.wordpress.com

    Abstract The mineral industries and Mining activities, in general, cause extensive environmental damage. Dealing with them is in many cases technically possible, but the cost is often prohibitive in an industry.

    Two of the most important tools for controlling environmental accidents are the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is a statutory requirement, and the voluntary tool Environmental Management System (EMS). Despite EIA being demanded by law in most countries there are no general definitions of the processes or the report. Identification of techniques and, more particularly, clear and unequivocal evidence regarding environmental impacts at all stages of production are becoming quite relevant. An attempt has been made in this paper to identify various aspects needed in order to improve environmental standard of the surroundings.

    Thus, Environmental impact assessment and approvals management are fundamental for minimising risk and maximising outcomes.

    INTRODUCTION Mining projects unavoidably result in big interference in the environment and significant source of pollution problems. The most serious consequence is that tailings and acid drainage often contain toxic heavy metals and/or sulphides, which easily can be transported to aquatic systems and cause great damages to the ecosystems. There have been a number of reported environmental accidents in relation to mining and mineral processing industry, from all over the world. These environmental accidents and their consequences are quite serious in nature in degrading environmental standard and general ecology. Mines, irrespective of, whether they are operational or closed, affect environment. Mining does not seem to agree with the concept of sustainable development. Mining, however, is a traditional industry and many nations growth, development, employment, income etc., depend on mining and mineral industry. It is therefore most certain that mining will continue to be an important industry in the future, regardless of its environmental impact.

    Now, the public have become more aware of the environmental risks associated to mining. The pressure on the mining industry to find a sustainable solution is now growing tremendously everywhere, specially in developed world.

  • Environmental Impacts of Mining: Identifying aspects of EIA and EMS in order to improve environmental standard

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Author: Partha Das Sharma, B.Tech(Hons.) in Mining Engineering, E.mail: sharmapd1@gmail.com, Blog: http://miningandblasting.wordpress.com/

    2

    The environmental legislation applicable for mining companies is not uniform everywhere. The global environmental problems have only been in focus since last almost 30 years and before that environmental legislation was virtually non-existent. As a result from the United Nations various world summits on the environment, combined with alarming reports from researchers on the bad environmental state on Earth, the environmental legislation is now developing rapidly and is being imposed.

    Two of the most important tools for the environmental work are the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is a statutory requirement, and the voluntary tool Environmental Management System (EMS).

    OBJECTIVES OF EIA AND EMS Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) is in general required for mining projects in most of the countries. In developed countries voluntary work methods are also playing an increasing role in the environmental protection efforts. To help organisations take control over their environmental impacts, Environmental Management Systems (EMS) have been developed. Organisations can choose to adopt a standardized system, such as the Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) which is an International Standard ISO 14001. Some companies create their own system, and some use branch specific EMS guidelines, like the Code for Environmental Management which is developed for mining companies by the Minerals Council of Australia.

    Since its introduction in 1996, the ISO 14001 International Standard, which specifies requirements for Environmental Management Systems (EMS), has been adopted by National Standards bodies in more than 130 countries. ISO 14001 is viewed by many governments, businesses, and non government organizations (NGO) as one of the best hopes for attaining worldwide sustainable development and continual improvement in environmental management and environmental performance through self-regulation and self-monitoring. Because of its global reach, ISO 14001 is becoming a passport to international trade, as companies registered to the Standard can claim to have demonstrated to independent registrars that they have implemented basic management principles and practices which integrate environmental considerations into business decision-making and operational controls.

    The level of ambition of the EMS is usually closely connected to the existing environmental legislation in the country, since the law is a minimum level for the environmental performance in an organisation. The EMS is a tool for a company to secure the statutory requirements first and to constantly raise the level of standard by taking further actions in the environmental field than those demanded by the law.

    For regulators and certified EMS consultants, it is necessary to investigate and study how best EIA and EMS can be used in the mining and related industry with the purpose of reducing the environmental effects and long-term costs for society, connected to the restoring of old mine areas. The aim of such study should be to illustrate the problems with the mine management regarding present environmental issues, and to educate potential of the future efforts. By suggesting a way of using EIA and EMS as helpful tools the intention is to encourage the mining sectors ambition to create a safe and environmentally sustainable mining.

    THE MINE PROJECT LIFE

  • Environmental Impacts of Mining: Identifying aspects of EIA and EMS in order to improve environmental standard

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Author: Partha Das Sharma, B.Tech(Hons.) in Mining Engineering, E.mail: sharmapd1@gmail.com, Blog: http://miningandblasting.wordpress.com/

    3

    Typical mining projects consist of five main phases; exploration, planning, construction, operation and closure.

    When an area possibly suitable for mining is found, the exploration begins with sampling, mapping and surveying. After collecting basic data the planning of the project can start. The planning stage includes choice of mining method and processing of the ore, design and engineering of the site etc. When authorities have approved the project and issued the required permits the construction and thereafter the operational stage takes over. Construction includes constructing shafts and tunnels or removing overlaying rock, and in the operation phase ore is extracted and processed. Finally the closure may include clean-up, sealing wastes and shafts and make the area available for other users.

    POSSIBLE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS FROM MINING The environmental impacts from mining range from changes in the landform to the release of pollutants to the air, water and soil of the surroundings. The extent of the environmental impact depends on what minerals are being extracted, and naturally of the properties of the mine such as size and methods. With effective environmental management many of the impacts can be reduced, and some of them even eliminated, but it is impossible to operate a mine without causing any environmental disturbances. Below are some examples of potential environmental impacts from a mining project. a. Landscape and physical destruction - First of all, the excavations cause alterations to the landscape. The most common type of mine is the open pit mine, which is a surface excavation. The rock overlying the ore body is removed and taken away from the pit, in order to reach the underlying ore body.

    EXPLORATION

    PLANNING

    CONSTRUCTION

    Project Approval

    OPERATION

    CLOSURE

  • Environmental Impacts of Mining: Identifying aspects of EIA and EMS in order to improve environmental standard

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Author: Partha Das Sharma, B.Tech(Hons.) in Mining Engineering, E.mail: sharmapd1@gmail.com, Blog: http://miningandblasting.wordpress.com/

    4

    The other type of mining, underground mining, takes place when the minerals lie deeper beneath the surface. Underground mining can cause subsidence in the land above the mine.

    Both open pit and underground mines result in extensive interference on the physical landscape, which can lead to for example changes in landform, alteration of the water table, land

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