Like most heavy industries, the mining sector has a high demand for inputs such as electricity, fuel, water and labour. It also has an impact on the natural environment it operates in, so there’s constant pressure on companies to reduce waste and impacts.
Carl Weatherell, executive director and CEO of the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), believes it is achievable to reduce both waste and overall mining impacts. In fact, CMIC, in partnership with mining industry leaders, is driving a bold initiative, known as Towards Zero Waste Mining (TZWM), to reduce energy and water use and environmental footprint in the mining sector by 50 per cent over the next seven years.
“Achieving zero waste mining is by no means an easy task. It requires the need for discipline and commitment in order to apply the innovative thinking and commercial applications, which drive the cost out of the equation at every phase of mining, from exploration to development and into production, reclamation and social development,” he says. “The commitment is not only when commodity prices are down, but consistently to generate sustainable, profitable “green growth” and economic and social prosperity.”
CMIC’s vision is to transform the mining industry by enabling the deployment of innovative technologies that will reduce by 50 per cent the mining industry’s energy use water use and environmental footprint. The goal is to have such technologies developed and proven by 2027, he adds.
It’s an ambitious goal, but Mr. Weatherell says focusing on these key areas is essential to reducing the adverse impacts of mining on the environment and on communities worldwide.
“Developing technologies to achieve these reductions will assist in making mining a more sustainable industry, while bearing in mind that minerals and metals are essential to modern life,” he says.
“By achieving TZWM, we look to fundamentally shift the mining industry and how mining interacts with communities and the environment,” he says. “To develop the technologies needed to do so, the underlying innovation system that drives change in the mining sector will, itself, need to change.”
Formed at the request of the industry and government to provide innovation leadership to the Canadian mining industry, CMIC facilitates an industry-driven innovation ecosystem connected through parallel and sequential linkages towards addressing waste challenges in mining.
A collaborative and shared-risk approach to innovative thinking, like that brought by CMIC and its members, with projects managed on the CMIC platform, can reduce the research and development risk and share the financial costs of developing technical and non-technical applications. These platform projects aim to make the products of mining (gold, copper, nickel, iron ore, rare earths, battery metals) better, faster, cheaper and safer.
He says CMIC’s staged and phased approach of its technology roadmaps ensures progression and adoption of innovative technologies that promote more efficient and sustainable operations and increase shareholder value.
Crushing and grinding rocks into smaller pieces is the most energy-consuming activity in a mining operation. One of CMIC’s key projects, the Conjugate Anvil Hammer Mill (CAHM), is developing technology to replace conventional ball and SAG mills, lower emissions, while reducing energy consumption by up to 50 per cent and costs by up to 30 per cent. Last year, the federal government invested $2-million in CMIC to lead the development of this processing technology.
With its industry members, CMIC has additional projects underway from the concept phase through to execution. These projects aim to harness innovation from many diverse groups to solve the complex cost, social, environmental, energy and water challenges the mining industry faces and to ultimately transform mining to a zero waste industry.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.