Incorporating the concept of sustainability and the circular economy as part of long-term waste management planning of mine operations and closure has become an important aspirational target globally in the mining industry, according to Steven Pearce, Technical Director of Mine Environment Management. According to Pearce, “implementing the concept requires both identifying the potential opportunities, meeting numerous technical challenges, and overcoming the inertia that maintains a grip on traditional mining practices. An extremely promising area of optimisation through use of technology is in the manner in which mine waste is classified and managed. MEM has completed site based research that identifies an opportunity for the application of established fragmentation-based technology and processes (currently used to optimise the mining process for ore zones), to the development of the mining plan for waste zones. Use of this established, but still developing, technology provides a number of opportunities to significantly reduce environmental risk and long-term liabilities of mine waste, reduce operational costs, and improve sustainability metrics of mining operations. One of the areas of optimisation identified is the manner in which cut off grades for ore and waste, and waste of different types, are traditionally developed and incorporated into mine plans. By using an optimised approach there is potential that material with net positive value can be identified, and recovered, from within waste zones and thus can be prevented from being inadvertently discarded into waste facilities. Further that low risk waste materials can be better identified within zones of “high risk” material and can be prevented from being managed as high risk. Overall this means that bulk mine waste materials that are produced in large volumes can be better characterised and managed in a lower risk and more cost effective manner.”

As part of MINEX Europe 2019 on 25-27 June 2019 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Steven will be giving an address on the dual benefits of utilising fragmentation assessment technology as part of mine operations to optimise the management of mining waste to both reduce environmental risks and increase recovery of resources.