Mining and The Benefits It Can Have on The Environment

As one of the largest industries in the world, mining continues to grow, in fact the industry experienced growth across all key data items in 2020-21. Globally, the industry is expected to reach a value of 3.36 trillion by the end of 2026! Keep in mind, that’s now only 3 years away. Part of this growth has been due to the increased demand worldwide for green technology including electric vehicles which require higher mineral content, six times the amount needed for conventional petrol vehicles. Even our devices we use everyday, such as phones and laptops require more than 35 different minerals to function properly.  

In Australia alone, we find the largest crude iron ore reserves worldwide at 51 billion megatons and is the second in mine production of gold. Mining in Australia is also responsible for 48% of lithium production and employs an average of 188.8 thousand people. The fact that the industry generates so much revenue globally and provides much needed precious metals/minerals, means we must ensure everything is being done to make mining as environmentally sustainable as possible. 

For some of you out there, the term environmentally friendly mining might sound a little like an oxymoron. How can an industry that is associated with high carbon emissions that add to the issue of climate change become green? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out just how sustainable mining can and will work. In reality, the ball is already in motion, with the intention of creating a brighter future for our world. 

The whole concept behind green mining involves ensuring the process is environmentally sustainable by utilising practices that limit the environmental impact that occurs as a result of mining. The last 100 years, the human race has contributed to global warming with fossil fuels and mismanaged waste practices. It’s time we start undoing some of that damage. 

As the need for renewable technology grows, the reliance on minerals does as well. The issue is that many mining operations still rely heavily on fossil fuels, essentially being a double edged sword (mining minerals to better the environment, whilst harming it with fossil fuels). Technology continues to improve, making environmentally friendly alternatives to previous mining practices much more attainable. Therefore, it’s only a matter of time before mining operations can begin implementing alternative options for achieving the same goal.

Innovative technologies, such as automated sorting systems and advanced drilling methods, have brought about a paradigm shift in the extraction of minerals and metals from the Earth. Automated sorting systems employ state-of-the-art sensors, cameras, and sophisticated algorithms to accurately identify and separate valuable minerals from waste materials. This breakthrough eliminates the necessity for extensive excavation and significantly reduces the volume of material that requires processing. 

As a result, energy consumption is minimised, and the overall environmental impact of mining operations is reduced. The precise targeting of desired minerals by automated sorting systems not only enhances resource efficiency but also leads to a substantial decrease in waste generation. This advancement marks a significant stride towards sustainable mining practices by optimising material usage and minimising the burden on landfills or waste disposal sites.

Lets circle back around to renewable energy generation and technology, as mining plays a crucial role in its development and expansion by providing the essential infrastructure needed to transmit and distribute renewable energy efficiently. 

We know that materials like copper and aluminium are extracted through mining, but did you also know that they play a significant role in renewable energy infrastructure? That’s right, copper, known for its excellent electrical conductivity and durability, is widely used in power transmission lines, transformers, and electrical wiring systems. 

Whereas, aluminium is commonly used in the manufacturing of wind turbine components such as blades and supporting structures, as well as in solar panel frames to ensure durability while reducing weight. 

By ensuring a sustainable supply of these metals, mining operations enable the construction of reliable and robust renewable energy infrastructure, supporting the scalability and efficiency of renewable energy projects. 

Additionally, mining contributes to the production of specialised components and secondary infrastructure necessary for renewable energy systems. This includes rare earth elements used in wind turbine generators and the construction of supporting infrastructure like access roads and transportation networks. It is through these contributions that mining is able to facilitate the successful implementation and operation of renewable energy tech.

Of course, as you can see, mining is taking great strides in building a better world for us all but we must still consider the long term effects that it can have on the environment. This must be considered going forward and in another blog, we will look at the emerging technologies that can help lead the charge in mitigating any environmental issues. 

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