A mining project from greenfield exploration to land reclamation after closure can often span many decades and costs billions of dollars. Mining is a high-risk activity with potential of high returns. Mining also comes with obligations. Mining companies are the custodians of the land on which the mine is located and must play the essential governance role throughout the life of a mine, ensuring that they meet strict environmental criteria.
Over the life of the project mining companies are required to comply with changing environmental requirements and obligations. They face increasing pressure to create sustainable operations that limit the impact on the surrounding environment. It’s critical mining companies have the knowledge, skills, technology and infrastructure to manage environmental data over the life of your mining project. Data types required to be managed over the life of a project include water quality, air quality, soil, source emissions, waste, tailings, biodiversity, taxonomy, water accounting, greenhouse gas emissions, geotechnical, and more. An Environmental Data Management System can deliver an end-to-end automated environmental data management workflows for mobile field data collection, sample management, laboratory data acquisition, sensor/logger data management, automatic notifications, data visualization, and regulatory reporting. Data captured and presented in an intuitive dashboard can allow the site operator to make informed decisions that address the regulatory and business priorities for your operation.
EarthSoft has more than two decades of experience in developing technology solutions to manage environmental data throughout a project lifecycle from inception to closure and reuse.
Environmental characterization of the area that surrounds the exploration tenement must be addressed early through baseline studies. These assessments are important for identifying and predicting the type and scale of any impact that exploration and ultimately mining may have on the region. Environmental baseline surveys can take months or years and must account for seasonal variations. Baseline studies will generally include numerous environmental data streams such as water, biodiversity, air, soil as well as benthic determinations. Baseline monitoring data collected can be voluminous and needs to be stored and managed in robust systems which allows data to be accessible, shared, interrogated, compared and analyzed over the project life.
Development and Design/Environmental Assessment/Site Characterisation
Environmental data continues to be collected through the advanced exploration, development and design stages. Data collected is used to assess project alternatives and determine if the mine can be operated environmentally responsibly and sustainably in accordance with international, national, regional and local regulations.
The commencement of mine construction and land disturbance activities including the removal storage of topsoil that can be used later for reclamation and relocation of wildlife and native plants. This is the stage where environmental risks to the surrounding environment including land, water, biodiversity, and people are escalated. During this stage the environmental components likely to be affected are air quality (dust, fumes), noise and vibration. It is often when pro-active water management programs and water accounting begin.
Construction of an expanded environmental monitoring network is undertaken, including the implementation of real-time monitoring stations. Data capture can be automated from these stations and transferred to the central environmental database via telemetry or direct-connect uploads.
During the operation of the mine, the project operator must comply with many environmental requirements that are defined by the various regulatory bodies. Stringent controls are established to prevent and manage any environmental impacts. Environmental data management systems are designed to assist with these controls and to ensure all environmental tasks including discreet sampling, ongoing real-time monitoring, site investigations, and action level exceedance plans are incorporated within the overall system framework. An environmental data management system provides real-time data visualization to trigger action responses as well as establishing preventative risk-based controls.
Planning for mine closure begins at the early stages for a project’s life cycle and continues throughout the life of the mine. This stage encompasses a comprehensive remediation program which has clear objectives such as minimizing environmental effects, removing waste and hazardous material, preserving water quality, and establishing new landforms and re-vegetation.
The availability of environmental data collected throughout the life of the project is essential for comparison against data collected during the reclamation stage. Analysis of the combined environmental data set will provide the necessary insights to determine the point at which the land is available for long-term reuse and achieving the agreed rehabilitation objectives. It’s critical that environmental data collected at every point during the life of the project is of a high integrity and accessible to support these decisions and be legally defensible.
Long-term Monitoring/Post Closure
Mining companies are often required to undertake long-term monitoring of the site post closure/remediation. Long-term monitoring aims to validate that the remediation program has met its objectives. A long-term monitoring program must comply with specific jurisdictional requirements. Environmental data management systems provide a cost-effective solution for automating the collection, storage, and management of the long-term monitoring data providing the site owner an interface to undertake continued data analysis and comply with their ongoing regulatory reporting obligations.
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