Environmental management

The minerals industry continues to be actively engaged in the practical and effective integration of environmental, social and economic aspects of resource development.  Earning and maintaining a social licence to operate and the practical implementation of sustainable development principles are defining features of modern mining operations.

Key features of the industry’s approach to environmental management include:

Land: Less than 0.7 per cent of Australia’s land mass is currently under mining lease.(i)  The footprint of mining occupies only 0.3 per cent of Australia’s land mass.(ii)  The industry is committed to ensuring mined lands are available both for alternative land uses consecutively with mining (including for biodiversity conservation) and to support alternative post-mining uses (including agriculture).

Water: A high-value, low-volume water user, mining accounted for less than 3.7 per cent of Australia’s water consumption in 2014-15. Mining operations seek to utilise low quality water not suitable for other industrial uses (including hyper-saline waters and primary-treated sewage) and to maximise the reuse efficiency of each water unit on site.(iii)

Biodiversity conservation:  The industry’s approach to biodiversity assessment and management centres on prevention and management of biodiversity impacts from mining and the identification of opportunities to enhance biodiversity conservation.  The minerals industry has contributed to the recovery of a number of threatened species and provides extensive data and resources to national biodiversity research.

Energy: Integrating operational needs with the commitment to sustainable development, the industry is actively pursuing the use of low emissions technologies and energy-efficiency measures.

Emissions management: The industry is actively minimising risks to occupational, community and environmental health through emission, transmission and exposure management for land, air and water.

Materials stewardship: The industry continues to reduce both its use of natural resources and other materials inputs and to minimise its production of wastes through facilitating and encouraging responsible product design, use, re-use, recycling and disposal of our products.  It is also engaged in a range of whole-of-life product management and certification schemes in line with leading global practice.

Specific initiatives to give practical effect to this management approach include:

  • Adoption of a nationally consistent minerals industry water accounting framework to drive transparency and water use efficiency
  • Development of alternative frameworks for land use assessment and natural resource management to deliver transparent, rigorous and sustainable decision making processes founded in science and to better support the coexistence of mining, agriculture and conservation
  • Development of leading practice industry guidance on the assessment of cumulative environmental impacts
  • Supporting the continued harmonisation of global chemicals and hazardous substances management to ensure comprehensive and effective protection of the environment and community health
  • Ongoing investment in the search for global climate change solutions, particularly breakthrough abatement technologies across all energy sources, most notably clean coal technology.

(i) SNL Metals & Mining (formerly Intierra RMG)- Mining and Minerals database, December 2012

(ii) Australian Collaborative Land Use and Management Program (ACLUMP), October 2009

(iii) Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 4610.0 – Water Account, Australia, released 23 November 2017