Mining with minimal environmental impact

Environmental benefits

Sustainable development integrates environmental policies and development strategies so as to satisfy current and future human needs, improve quality of life and protect the environment that we depend on for life support services; it is “a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987[1]).

Sustainable development indicators (SDI) provide metrics for the state of a system or for monitoring a trend in the development of the system. SDI have been developed for different purposes and in different contexts. The most comprehensive and well documented indicator set is that contained in the G4 sustainability reporting guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative[2]. The reporting guidance describes a process whereby organisations can generate reliable and relevant information on their material (significant) economic, environmental and social impacts in a standardised yet flexible format. The main industrial BIOMOre partner, KGHM Polska Miedź, uses the GRI G4 guidelines in its reporting on sustainable development.

The BIOMOre project has selected a subset of SDI from the G4 guidance document that, based on the technology’s potential risks and advantages, is judged to be relevant for assessing the contribution of the new in situ recovery technology to the industry’s sustainable development, see the table below. Identified potential advantages and risks associated with the in-situ recovery technology are listed below with the relevant SDI given in brackets afterwards:

  • No ore or waste moved (G4-EN3, G4-EN15)

  • No creation of open holes, waste dumps, leach pads or tailings (MM1, MM3)

  • Minimal visual disturbance (G4-SO2)

  • Minimal noise, dust, greenhouse gas emissions and other emissions (G4-SO2, G4-EN15, G4?EN21)

  • Environmental impacts by leachate escape outside the mining area (G4-EN22)

  • Seismic and rock mechanic impacts (G4-SO2)

  • Post operational chemical or microbial impacts on the deposit (MM3)

  • Impacts from sludge and other process waste (MM3)

The SDI selected address the main advantages and risks identified. A majority of the selected SDI refer to environmental issues whereas two refer to the other two pillars of sustainable development, social and economic impacts. It should be noted that seismic issues are not addressed directly in the GRI G4 SDI. They have been assigned by the project to the SDI G4-SO2 as a potential negative effect on the local community.


[1] Our common future, report from the World Commission on Environment and Development, Oxford University Press.  “The Brundtland commission”

[2] G4 sustainability reporting guidelines: Reporting principles and standard disclosures. Available from: www.globalreporting.org.

Aspect SDI number and title
Economic Performance G4-EC1 Direct economic value generated and distributed (+ sector additions for mining and metals)
Materials G4-EN1 Materials used by weight or volume
Energy G4-EN3 Energy consumption within the organisation
Biodiversity MM1 Amount of land (owned or leased, and managed for production activities or extractive use) disturbed or rehabilitated
Emissions G4-EN15 Direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (scope 1)
Emissions G4-EN21 NOx, SOx, and other significant air emissions (+ sector additions for mining and metals)
Effluents and Waste G4-EN22 Total water discharge by quality and destination
Effluents and Waste MM3 Total amounts of overburden, rock, tailings, and sludges and their associated risks
Local communities G4-SO2 Operations with significant actual and potential negative impacts on local communities

 

The assessment of the technology’s contribution to sustainable development is performed by comparing calculated SDI values for a “baseline” technology” defined as conventional underground mining with estimated values for the in situ recovery process being developed in the BIOMOre project. The assessment team has chosen the baseline technology as being the technology applied in the Rudna in Poland mine where the underground experiments in the project are performed. SDI data for the Rudna mine has been collated and evaluated from open source data in the sustainability reporting by the mine operator KGHM Polska Miédź.

Exploitation strategy

The goal of the BIOMOre project is to implement an alternative mining concept using a combined method of channelling and bioleaching for the in-situ recovery of mineral resources from ore deposits exceeding 1000 m depths.
To enable a large-scale application of this technology, our key objectives are to demonstrate its functional efficiency at the example case Rudna Mine in Poland and to identify further mineral deposits that provide adequate site conditions allowing for an application of this technology.
For this purpose, the exploitation strategy should comprise the

  • identification of suitable deep mineral deposits in Europe and abroad that may be extracted via biomining,
  • specific adaptation and optimisation of the in-situ recovery technique to site conditions of different mineral ore deposits,
  • economical evaluation of life-of-mine costs including capital and operational expenditures and comparison to traditional mining techniques
  • qualitative compilation of potential risk factors (e.g. environment, geology, technology, public acceptance, health & safety) that will be evaluated quantitatively.