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Author Earley, D., III; Schmidt, R.D.; Kim, K.
Title Is sustainable mining an oxymoron? Type Journal Article
Year 1997 Publication Abbreviated Journal
Volume Issue Pages
Keywords acids data processing development ground water leaching mineral resources mining mining geology models monitoring pollution production solutions 26A Economic geology, general, deposits 22 Environmental geology
Abstract Sustainable mining is generally considered to be an oxymoron because mineral deposits are viewed as nonrenewable resources that are fixed in the crust. However, minerals are conserved and recycled by plate tectonics which continually creates and destroys ore deposits. Though it is true that rock cycles have much longer periods than biomass cycles, the crust is essentially an infinite reservoir so long as we continue to invest in mineral exploration and processing technology. Implicit in the definition of sustainable development is the recognition that human development of resources in one reservoir may subsequently degrade resources supplied by another. The depreciation of overlapping and adjacent resources is often externalized in the cost to benefit accounting and cannot be sustained if the integrated cost/benefit ratio is greater than 1. The greatest obstacle to sustainability in mining is the expanding scale of excavation required to develop leaner ores because this activity degrades connected resources. In the case of open pit, sulfide ore mining the disturbed land may produce acid rock drainage (ARD). Because ARD will self-generate over the course of tens to hundreds of years the cost of controlling this pollution and rehabilitating mined lands is large and often spread over many generations. Secondary production of minerals from partially excavated deposits where there are preexisting environmental impacts and mine infrastructure help to reduce the risk of depreciating pristine resources, provided that new mining operations “do no (additional) harm” (Margoles, 1996). In turn, a percentage of the profits derived from secondary mineral production can be used for rehabilitation of the previously mined lands. These lands contain significant, albeit low grade, metal concentrations. These concepts are being developed and tested at the Mineral Park Sustainable Mining Research Facility where an in situ copper sulfide mining field experiment was conducted. Monitoring data and computer modeling indicate that ARD is not generated after closure. This is because the ore is not disturbed and is left saturated, whereas unsaturated conditions generate acidic drainage. The short term risk of groundwater contamination is mitigated by utilizing an exempt mine pit to capture any leach solutions that are not intercepted by the wellfield. Using green accounting techniques and transfer models it can be communicated that this mining scenario is an approach to sustainability.
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Corporate Author Thesis
Publisher Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America Place of Publication Editor
Language Summary Language Original Title
Series Editor Series Title Geological Society of America, 1997 annual meeting Abbreviated Series Title
Series Volume Series Issue Edition
ISSN ISBN Medium
Area Expedition Conference
Notes (up) 1998-051450; Geological Society of America, 1997 annual meeting, Salt Lake City, UT, United States, Oct. 20-23, 1997; GeoRef; English Approved no
Call Number CBU @ c.wolke @ 16638 Serial 396
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