By EPCM World contributor Heather Wright
Bringing new meaning to the concept that less can mean more, this past week a new organization emerged to bring new focus on cleaner mining practices.
The Clean Mining Alliance, based out of Vancouver, is to function as an advocate, and will draw attention to new technological advancements which support making the mining industry cleaner and more environmentally accountable. The alliance will strive to uncover and share best practices to with companies in the industry, as well.
Founding members of this not-for-profit association, who lead by their own greener technology examples, include American Manganese, CERM³ at the University of British Columbia, Kemetco Research and Nevada Clean Magnesium, all of whom utilize and/or promote cleaner, safer technologies.
The goal, in short, is to promote practices and associated technologies that extract the most minerals or metals with the least impact on the earth.
“Frameworks exist to increase social responsibility in mining, but despite advancements in exploration, extraction, production and reclamation technology, the industry has struggled to present itself as having grown beyond the mining days of old,” says Dallas Kachan, Executive Director of the Clean Mining Alliance. “The Clean Mining Alliance exists to help promote new and emerging technology developments that are making mining more environmentally responsible.”
Specifically, what are these technologies, and what is their impact on the earth, and on the industry?
Kachan tells EPCM World: “Several members of our association are doing interesting work. American Manganese, based in British Colombia, is developing a new low-power, low- water and low-toxicity process for making Electrolytic Manganese Metal (EMM). EMM is a very important to steel production, etc. Magnesium is the fourth largest traded commodity in the world. It’s a big deal.”
“The company’s process involves lowering the total amount of energy required to make EMM – so recycling water through Nano filtration techniques. The output of the process is benign. There are no toxic tailings in the process.”
“Nevada Clean Magnesium has come up with a near-zero emissions way of making magnesium. Most magnesium production emits a fair amount of carbon into the atmosphere. They found a way to sequester most of that carbon.”
“Kemetco Research has come up with a zero cyanide method for recovering gold. The research division called CERM³ (The University of British Columbia’s Centre for Environmental Research in Minerals, Metals and Materials) is a leader in acid mine drainage (AMD), which is of course a persistent problem in the mining industry, and has engineered solutions to that end.”
There is a clear role for this organization to play in the Canadian mining industry, and the timing is right as the public and government bodies continue to be vocal in support of sustainable change.
As Kachan tells EPCM World, “Mining hasn’t changed all that much in hundreds of years… but new innovations are starting to emerge…giving mining the opportunity to become more efficient. We believe that these technologies and innovations can play a major role in making mining better for people and the planet.”