Source: Image courtesy of Newmont Mining(How sustainability fits into the mine lifecycle)
Mining operations are complex and costly undertakings consisting of various interconnected projects, operating simultaneously to deliver refined commodities like gold, silver, coal and iron ore. In this illustration, we have relied on the newmont lifecylce to provide a brief descritpion of each stage:
1. Exploration - This stage involves geological surface mapping and sampling, geophysical measurements and geochemical analysis.
2. Development and Design - Typically consists of studies to help companies determine if and how a project can be safe, environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible. This can take upto 10 years depeding on sevral factors including but not limited to legal requirements, economic performance and technical dificulties.
3. Construction - Involves building roads, processing facilities, environmental management systems, employee housing and other facilities. The scope and complexity of construction however is unique to each project.
4. Production - This stage typically involves the actual extraction, mineral recovery, processing and smelting. This stage takes a period of 10 to 30 years or beyond depending on the mine.
5. Closure and Post-closure - The entre closure and postclosure stage is a trnasitional period for investors as well as communities. The stage can involve a comprehensive rehabilitation program which has many objectives including: ensuring public health and safety, minimising environmental effects, removing waste and harzadous material, preservation of water quality, stabilizing land to protect against erosion and establishing new landforms and vegetation. For post closure, the goal is to assess that the rehabilitation program is working as intended.