The Environmental sustainability of mining in Australia: key mega-trends and looming constraints
At first 'sustainable mining' could be perceived as a paradox--minerals are widely held to be finite resources with rising consumption causing pressure on known resources. The true sustainability of mineral resources, however, is a much more complex picture and involves exploration, technology, economics, social and environmental issues, and advancing scientific knowledge--predicting future sustainability is therefore not a simple task. This paper presents the results from a landmark study on historical trends in Australian mining, including ore milled, ore grades, open cut versus underground mining, overburden/waste rock and economic resources. When complete data sets are compiled for specific metals, particular issues stand out with respect to sustainability--technological breakthroughs (e.g. flotation, carbon-in-pulp), new discoveries (e.g. uranium or U), price changes (e.g. Au, boom/bust cycles), social issues (e.g. strikes), etc. All of these issues are of prime importance in moving towards a semi-quantitative sustainability model of mineral resources and the mining industry. For the future, critical issues will continue to be declining ore grades (also ore quality and impurities), increased waste rock and associated liabilities, known economic resources, potential breakthrough technologies, and broader environmental constraints (e.g. carbon costs, water). For this latter area, many companies now report annually on sustainability performance--facilitating analysis of environmental sustainability with respect to production performance. By linking these two commonly disparate aspects--mining production and environmental/sustainability data--it becomes possible to better understand environmental sustainability and predict future constraints such as water requirements, greenhouse emissions, energy and reagent inputs, and the like. This paper will therefore present a range of fundamental data and issues which help towards quantifying the resource and environmental sustainability of mining--with critical implications for the mining industry and society as a whole.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Fthenakis, Vasilis & Wang, Wenming & Kim, Hyung Chul, 2009. "Life cycle inventory analysis of the production of metals used in photovoltaics," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 493-517, April.
- Cowell, Sarah J. & Wehrmeyer, Walter & Argust, Peter W. & Robertson, J. Graham S., 1999. "Sustainability and the primary extraction industries: theories and practice," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 277-286, December.
- Mudd, Gavin M., 2007. "Global trends in gold mining: Towards quantifying environmental and resource sustainability," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 42-56.
- Garcia, Patricio & Knights, Peter F. & Tilton, John E., 2001. "Labor productivity and comparative advantage in mining:: the copper industry in Chile," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 97-105, June.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jrpoli:v:35:y:2010:i:2:p:98-115. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.