The Asia Miner

OCT-DEC 2018

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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the asia miner • volume 15 • issue 4 18 WASTE TO ENERGY The arঞcles so far in this series on industrial ecology (IE) applied to mining have touched on some of the core elements in the field. They have outlined the principles and concepts of IE and illustrated how its tools and strategies could address current issues. One way or another, many of those issues – such as acid rock drainage or adapঞng to the digital revoluঞon – will eventually be resolved by technology. Other issues, however, arise predominantly from human relaঞonships with one another. These are more appropriately addresses from a sociological perspecঞve than a technological one. Unঞl the beginning of the 21 st Century, the emphasis in IE research has been mostly technical: refining the principles, the concepts and developing tools, such as life cycle analysis and footprint analysis. Typically, consultants use these tools to provide the informaঞon required by their clients. Experts can also be engaged to advise on corporate environmental policies and strategies like industrial symbiosis or eco- industrial development. Management of IE processes, corporate relaঞons with society at large and similar issues had not been widely addressed in the context of IE. By the ঞme researchers had seled into the 21 st Century, it was realised that these factors are crucial to achieving sustainable development. Accordingly, sociological studies from the perspecঞve of IE began to emerge. They now consঞtute a major area of interest, both academically and in pracঞce. It is moot whether the sociology of IE has yielded any original discoveries yet but studies focused, for example, on collaboraঞon, corporate triple boom line and social license to operate have contributed to a body of knowledge, which is progressively transforming 'business as usual'. CHANGING THE FACE OF MINING A report by Deloie published in March 2018 1 perceives a mining industry that must change substanঞally in the foreseeable future from business as usual. Industrial ecology will inevitably contribute broadly to that process. Several aspects of the industry menঞoned in Deloie's report suggest areas in which the sociology of IE is parঞcularly relevant and could have a strong bearing in pracঞce. One challenge for the industry, as cited in the report, will be water management. According to Deloie, "as concerns about water availability grow, mining companies must find more innovaঞve ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle water" as well as "contain and treat wastewater to prevent spillage or contaminaঞon of downstream water flows". In the context of innovaঞon, the report suggests a different, though equally significant, challenge of mining companies being disinclined to collaborate with each other "because of concerns about maintaining a compeঞঞve advantage and protecঞng intellectual property". Different again are the burgeoning, increasingly complicated challenges relaঞng to engagement with stakeholders where the mining industry "must adapt new approaches to the communiঞes in which they operate and greater environmental protecঞon". Developing innovaঞve uses of water will likely be a complex, predominantly technical pursuit, especially, for example, on the scale of a tailings dam. Such projects almost certainly require more management resources and probably topics in the sociology of IE relate particularly to such challenges: trust; collaboration and approaches to innovation. While they attract considerable academic interest, they do also have a significant bearing on practice The sociology of Industrial Ecology and mining By Dr Robin Branson PhD, MBA, BSc. (Hons), Director Australian Industrial Ecology Network The sociology of Industrial Ecology applied to the mining industry: notions now about change to come.

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