Effective Integrated Frameworks for Assessing Mining Sustainability

The mineral and metal extraction industry has enhanced economic prosperity and led to significant societal advancements. While the materials produced from mining are essential to the support of current living standards, the associated costs have become apparent with the degradation of ecosystem services and deleterious impacts on human health. As a result, those involved in mining have begun to implement sustainability goals and approaches, which requires methods to accurately and cost-effectively assess such efforts. Existing methods used for assessing mining sustainability were reviewed and the limited prior research that has evaluated the methods was analyzed. This allowed identification of key characteristics that constitute an enhanced sustainability framework that would improve sustainability reporting in the mining industry. Five of the most relevant frameworks were selected for comparison in this analysis, and the results show that there are relevant components are missing from all five. An enhanced evaluation system and framework was created to provide a more holistic, comprehensive method for sustainability assessment and reporting. The proposed framework has five components that build from and encompass the twelve evaluation characteristics used in the analysis, including Foundation, Focus, Breadth, Quality Assurance, and Relevance. The enhanced framework promotes a comprehensive, location-specific reporting approach with a concise set of well-defined indicators. Built into the framework is quality assurance, as well as a defined method to use information from sustainability reports to inform decisions. The framework incorporates human health and socio-economic aspects via initiatives such as community engaged research, economic valuations, and community-initiated environmental monitoring.

 

Publication

Virgone, K.M., M. Ramirez-Andreotta, J. Mainhagu, M.L. Brusseau. Effective Integrated Frameworks for Assessing Mining Sustainability. December 2018. Environmental Geochemistry & Health, 40, 2635–2655.