Sustainable Mining - Hande Mert


With the developing technologies and new mining operations trends, environmentally negative effects will be reduced; therefore, a harmonious state will be achieved with mining operations and the environment. To achieve sustainability on the mine site, consistency must be achieved between the environment and mining operations. In this paper, green mining techniques to maintain sustainability are examined. These techniques are greenhouse gas emission reduction with artificial intelligence, automation, and electricity usage in mine sites to provide energy and as another source of renewable energy.

After traditional mining techniques have come to a level where both technology and types of machinery used are the best ones, other important features like safety and the negative impacts of the mining activities on ecosystems have started to be examined. Therefore Green Mining has begun to upgrade the existing mining techniques by choosing new and environmentally friendly pieces of equipment in extracting and processing ore stages, more efficient electricity usage plans, new methods on mine closures, and reduction of chemical use environmental impacts. And green Mining requires consistent research stages and developing new techniques to improve the project. Green Mining is not as prevalent as it should be right now. But it is promising to see that the mining industry is dedicated to implementing mining activities by green mining measures.

Environmental Impacts of Mining Activities

Mining operations have a lot of bad impacts on the environment when the operation stages are considered. Some of the bad impacts are instant, while other ones come further stages of the operation. One of the first impacts is, as can be imagined, removing the ore from the ground. The explosives that are being used to create the hole and water contamination caused by the extraction. While disturbing or even destroying the wildlife underground, the whole process negatively affects the ecosystem that appears above the mine site and not to mentions the issue of dangerous substances that mineworkers are exposed to.

Unfortunately, that is just the stepping stone of the negative impacts that mining operations cause. Because after the extracting part of the ore, the separation process comes. Many valuable mined minerals and metals like gold, nickel, and copper need to be separated from the waste rock by a chain of chemical processes. Those chemical processes waste acidifies the water and soil in and around the mine site, which causes hazardous effects on the ecology and biodiversity. With the dissolving characteristic of water, tailings and wastes become more dangerous.

Mining operations also affect the whole area which surrounds the mining site. As the operation goes, soil, air, and water contamination increase due to chemical usage and greenhouse gas emission. Over time, local people who live near the mine site will be affected by the air, water, noise pollution, and ecosystem disruption, resulting in health and economic issues. The degree is dependent on the techniques that are being used. But every technique needs a huge amount of energy. And the energy usage daily means greenhouse gas release and, as a result, climate change. Climate change is not only dangerous for our environment, but it's also dangerous for the mining operations themselves. Yet, the fact that climate change implications will be acknowledged in further years other environmental impacts stated before are taken more seriously.[3]

Green Mining Applications

The development of technology changed the mining industry just like it changed every other industry—sustainability concerns shaped this change slowly but surely. For example, autonomous vehicles started being used, and the environmental impacts started to get counted before the mining operations took place. These and innovations like this are the main concerns for mining industry giants. This game-changing series of techniques brings lots of other areas like economy, societal impacts into account.

•Better awareness and understanding among the public about Mining's environmental issues, including the danger from tailings dam disasters, and better information dissemination concerning environmental impacts when they occur (Jenkins and Yakovleva, 2006). [4]

•Global concern about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, influencing both mining operations and mineral fuels being mined (coal and bitumen) (Odell, Bebbington and Frey, 2018). [5]

Artificial Intelligence to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The massive amounts of energy consumption that mining operations require is a big problem in so many ways. One of the most dangerous problems is greenhouse gas emissions. But with a reasonable approach to managing the energy consumption on mine sites, it is possible to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. In this technique, the energy amount required to transport the overburden is under investigation. Since transportation with shovels and trucks requires a huge amount of energy, by changing some parameters like load density, trucks route, and ground conditions, it is possible to control the energy usage.[5]

This study contains the correlation between fuel utilization and payload, total resistance, truck speed parameters. With the artificial intelligence technique Artificial Neural Network, a model was created which shows the estimation and decreased fuel utilization. This model can forecast optimal amounts for the parameters mentioned above and make the operation more profitable. The field studies have been completed at a surface coal mine in Queensland, Australia.[6]

It can be seen from the table that, as the truck speed and total resistance increases, greenhouse gas emissions increases as well. To keep the greenhouse gas emission to a minimum amount, operators must use the trucks with a suggested payload. Because as the load increases, greenhouse gas emissions will increase.



Automation and Electrification

Automations advantages are really important for the mining industry. It gives so many opportunities and enhances the operation's capacity while increasing the health and safety measures. Autonomous systems are the perfect choice to reduce the environmental impacts of mining operations. There are so many areas in Mining where autonomous systems can be used. Autonomous drilling systems, tunnel-boring systems, ventilation systems, transportation systems, and site monitoring systems are not only reducing the environmental impacts. Still, they are also increasing the productivity of the mining operations. By removing the employees from dangerous areas, deathly accidents can be prevented. That also means with remote control, fewer vehicles will be on the run, and the fuel consumption will be less. Overall, with the shortage of mobility of the employees and the energy consumption, environmental effects will be reduced.[7]

Electrification usage is another huge benefit for mining operations. Because fossil fuel usage is increasing the operational costs and greenhouse gas release. However, as a new trend, electricity started being used as a power source for machines and vehicles at mining sites. Nowadays, hybrid mining plants and types of machinery/vehicles are designed. Some machines are powered by diesel and electricity, and some are directly full of electricity. And the differences and simplicity of electrical motors result in decreasing the maintenance needs. Electricity usage can also reduce the ventilation requirement in underground tunnels. Exhaust fumes pose a health and safety hazard and must be continuously ventilated.

Renewable Energy

One of the most efficient ways of answering the energy consumption needs in mining sites is renewable energy usage. Even though this is a new and improving trend, it is still very important. With hybrid diesel renewable energy systems, it is possible to provide the cleanest energy for mining sites. By choosing solar and wind energy for mining operations, greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel usage can be decreased while decreasing the overall costs at the same time.

There is a case study in Chile. Due to the high electricity taxes in Chile ($100 per megawatt/h), this copper mine's energy needs are received by solar panels, wind turbines. As the new source became popular, lots of more renewable energy centers started being built. This shows that renewable energy sources help reduce the environmental effects and decrease operational costs.[8]

Conclusion

Sustainability is one of the most important things to ensure while mining operations. To do that, environmental effects must be considered before, during, and after a mining project. The mining plans, techniques, equipment, and energy sources must be chosen wisely. Green Mining is a new and enlarging trend that will be more popular in further years, because of the many advantages. With the help of artificial intelligence, heavy fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced. Hence environmental impacts are reduced. As automation and electricity usage get more prevalent in mine sites, overall costs will be decreased while the operation's profit and safety increase. Even though not many companies use renewable energy as the main energy source, the industry began to realize the asset of solar and wind power. Especially when the economic measures are considered, in the future, to get better results, the studies must be consistent and continuous. By doing more experiments, reliable results of essential operation parameters can be achieved. With more mining companies' support, green mining methods are going to be more popular, and this is going to help the whole industry to change. Finally, the mining industry will accomplish conformity in mining operations with the environment. And the new generation will have benefits of the natural resources safely.[9][10]


References · [3][4][5][7][8]Green Action Task Force & The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2019, April). Mining and Green Growth in the EECCA region. (http://www.oecd.org/environment/outreach/GREEN-Action-Task-Force/)

· [6]Soofastaei, A. (2018, November 5th). The Application of Artificial Intelligence to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Mining Industry. 3. 10.5772/intechopen.80868

· [9]Skiba, J., Jura, W., & Jura, B. (2013, 24-26 November). Integrated Extraction of Coal and Methane from the Multi-Coal Seams Using Hydro Borehole Mining Technology. The 6th International Symposium on Green Mining, 314-318. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271191898_Integrated_extraction_of_coal_and_methane_from_the_multi-coal_seams_using_hydro_borehole_mining_technology)

· [10] Shi a*, H. (2012, March 14th). 2012 International Conference on Future Energy, Environment, and Materials - Mine Green Mining. Energy Procedia, 16, 409-416. (https://www.researchgate.net/deref/http%3A%2F%2Fdx.doi.org%2F10.1016%2Fj.egypro.2012.01.067)

· https://www.mining.com/2019-tipping-point-for-renewable-energy-at-mine-sites/