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The Challenge for Mining in the Face of Climate Change

By Jesús Enrique Pablo-Dorantes - Hoocax
Expert in Environmental Impact, Soil and Groundwater Pollution


By Jesús Enrique Pablo-Dorantes | Chairman of the Advisory Board - Mon, 07/31/2023 - 11:20

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Mining is a crucial activity for the extraction of mineral resources and metals needed for industrial and technological development. However, this activity also faces the challenge of climate change, which poses significant environmental risks. In this article, we will explore the relationship between mining and climate change, analyzing its fundamentals, basic concepts, history and recent developments. In addition, we will present a proposal to make mining more sustainable by identifying a specific problem or challenge and describing the methodology for its resolution.

Mining is an age-old practice that has evolved to meet the growing demands for mineral resources. This activity involves the extraction and processing of valuable minerals and metals, such as coal, copper, gold, iron and many others, which are essential to various industries. However, mining also has a significant impact on the environment and climate change.

First, mining contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) due to the burning of fossil fuels in machinery and equipment used in mining operations. This includes the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), which are responsible for global warming. In addition, mineral extraction often leads to the destruction of forest ecosystems, loss of biodiversity and soil degradation, which can further exacerbate the effects of climate change.

In recent years, there have been significant advances in understanding the environmental impact of mining and finding more sustainable solutions. More energy-efficient technologies have been developed and the use of renewable energy in mining operations has been promoted to reduce GHG emissions. In addition, stricter regulations and environmental management practices have been implemented to mitigate the negative impact of mining on climate change.

Despite these advances, we still face the challenge of balancing the demand for minerals with the need to address climate change in a sustainable manner. It is crucial to develop a comprehensive approach that promotes more responsible and environmentally friendly mining.

The main challenge is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with mining activity and to promote more sustainable mining practices. To achieve this, the following has been proposed:

Establishment of standards and regulations: It is essential to establish clear standards and strict regulations governing mining practices. These standards should address aspects such as energy efficiency, emissions reduction, waste management and restoration of affected areas. In Mexico, the effort from 2000 to 2018 collapsed due to budget cuts and the obtuse vision of the current federal executive administration.

Promotion of clean technologies: Incentives and investments should be made in the development and implementation of clean technologies in mining. This includes the use of more energy efficient equipment and machinery, the adoption of renewable energies for electricity supply, and the implementation of carbon capture and storage systems. These actions continue, driven precisely by the reduction in operating costs involved.

Promoting the circular economy: The transition to a circular economy in the mining industry should be promoted. This involves maximizing the recovery and recycling of materials, thus reducing the need for new extraction. In addition, waste management practices should be implemented that minimize environmental impacts and promote the reuse and recycling of materials. As in the previous case, the reduction of operating costs drives actions of this type, but it is necessary for the government to resume its role as a driving force.

Participation and collaboration: It is essential to involve all stakeholders, including governments, mining companies, local communities and environmental organizations, in decision-making and implementation of sustainable measures. Collaboration and open dialogue will enable a more balanced and effective approach to addressing the challenges of mining and climate change. An accelerator is required for the practice to be standardized across the mining sector.

The proposal is justified because of the urgent need to address the environmental impact of mining on climate change. Implementation of the proposed measures will promote more sustainable mining, reduce GHG emissions and mitigate negative impacts on the environment.

To implement this proposal, a comprehensive and coordinated approach will be required. This includes the development and enactment of stricter but also consistent environmental regulations, investment in research and development of clean technologies, promotion of the circular economy and active participation of all stakeholders.

Mining in the face of climate change is a pressing challenge that requires concrete and sustainable measures. Through the implementation of regulations, the promotion of clean technologies, the promotion of the circular economy and collaboration among all stakeholders, we can move toward more responsible and environmentally friendly mining. In doing so, we will be working toward a future where mining and climate change can coexist in a balanced way, ensuring the availability of needed mineral resources while protecting the environment and addressing the challenge of climate change.

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