In an opinion article on Business Excellence, sustainability consultancy Allen & York's Vicky Kenrick says that there is no escaping the fact that extraction of mineral resources from the earth and its oceans is not sustainable in the long-term.
"However," she says, "there are ways in which the industry can work to a more sustainable model." She adds that - given the substantial and direct social, environmental and economic impact its activities can have, the mining industry has a crucial role to play in the responsible development of the world's natural resources,
Exploration and mining activities are expanding into areas of critical habitat, Kenrick warns, and degradation of these areas can result in the loss of threatened or endangered species, as well as ecosystems vital to the provision of services such as food production and freshwater availability. Among the most pressing environmental concerns for stakeholders associated with the mining industry are energy efficiency and water usage. "In South Africa," Kenrick says, "a continual transition to more efficient mining is taking place, where mining companies have been looking at solar or wind power to substitute grid power for parts of powering operations and floodlights."
In 2010, the UN declared a 'Decade of biodiversity', highlighting the requirement for the conservation of biodiversity in mining through 2010 to 2020 and beyond. The mining and minerals industry has always been on the receiving end of environmental criticism but it appears the industry itself is embarking upon its own campaign, Kenrick says in her Business Excellence article - through the recruitment of environmental and sustainable professionals to move the industry towards a more permanently sustainable model.