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Mining as a resource manager  

Happy new year! Welcome back to The Intelligent Miner newsletter.

To kick off a year of holistic exploration on mining and its intersection with people and the planet, I’ve chosen the topic of natural resource management. In the future, it’s important that more mining companies start to see themselves as managers or caretakers of precious resources like water, energy and minerals, rather than consumers or ‘owners’. 

Extractives companies today have a particularly complex, dare I say it, rather parasitic, relationship with mother nature. This is nearly always characterised by a one-way flow of value, assumed entitlement when it comes to natural resources, and it really only promotes or protects the interests of one party. 

While driving down water and energy usage is vital to creating more efficient and less wasteful processes, minimising consumption doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is contemporary culture and the way in which we regard natural resources.

Someone asked me recently: “Can an industry that relies solely upon the depletion of finite and, in some cases, highly contentious resources for its base existence ever be fully sustainable?”

I didn’t have a decent answer. But it’s a question that has stuck with me.

This month, I want to explore the relationship that the mining industry has with the environment and the resources it relies upon. I’m curious as to how this will change with the advent of zero-waste, circular business practices, how the risks and opportunities for both parties will evolve, and also how a healthier attitude towards resource stewardship (perhaps brought by younger generations) could change the industry's fate.

It’s also important to keep asking how we could do better. How can mining companies provide value for the environment and/or other resource users in return for their share of the pie? We’re becoming accustomed to the idea of identifying opportunities for shared social value in mining and metals projects, but what about shared environmental value? 

Forging a more symbiotic relationship with nature will not be quick or easy, but it will yield long-term benefits that could be critical to the industry’s survival.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Drop me an email for more resource chat.


Coming up in February: Mining as part of an industrial ecosystem      

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Reading list
Eight articles on the mining industry and its management of natural resources 
UWA: Zero-Waste Mining – ‘Tell him he’s dreaming!’
I won't lie, the title was a big draw. However, upon examination, it's actually a great article. Nicole Roocke breaks down the challenges that need to be addressed by policymakers and businesses alike to create zero-waste mines
CEEC: Thought leader series - Alison Keogh interviews Marc Allen
A great video interview. CEEC CEO, Alison Keogh, quizzes Marc Allen, Director of engeco. Marc authored an independent report last year commissioned by the Weir Group that examines direct energy use and emissions from mine sites
Accenture: The case for circularity in metals and mining
Accenture's strategists examine the challenges and opportunities associated with circularity in mining, illustrated with some practical examples
Stantec: Powering our mines - transitioning from hydrocarbons to renewables
An excellent introduction to the benefits of renewable, onsite power generation in mining. Jon Treen lays out some of the options available to mines today   
Responsible Mining Foundation: Beyond emissions reductions - climate change and mining
RMF research has revealed that many large miners cannot demonstrate they have considered how climate change may exacerbate the impacts of their operations on communities, workers and the environment. Quite a sobering report
Water technology: 6 Ways to Improve Water Conservation in Mining Operations 
Bryan Christiansen explains how embracing new technologies and strategies can help operations to conserve precious water supplies
ReThink Mining: The role of education in the race to zero waste
The CMIC team discuss the importance of education and training in equipping tomorrow’s leaders for zero-waste mining
Hatch: Sustainable water management in mining, a global imperative
Jie Yang explains why good water management practices should be a cornerstone of mining companies' sustainable development plans
Last month on The Intelligent Miner
We explored mineral exploration for the 21st century
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