Learning from the world: Mining best practices

Technological advances, improved infrastructure and an ever-increasing demand for energy have led to the rise of mining in emerging economies. In the last decade, India in particular has tapped into its natural bounty and leveraged it for economic growth. However, there is still a long way to go for the sector to become as sustainable, lucrative and efficient as the countries that are leading the pack. This makes it more important than ever to look to these industry leaders, and adapt some of their best practices for one’s own business or country.
Here are 10 successful exploration practices from various parts of the world that, if implemented in other countries as well, could help their mining sectors scale the heights of prosperity:

Embrace Digitisation
Technology has revolutionised every aspect of our lives, and it can also help increase the efficiency and reduce the time taken for issuing mining permits. In Australia, a single window clearance process was found to reduce the number of delayed applications. Canada, too, saw how advantageous digitisation was, and made their tenement registry available online, alongside a comprehensive listing of licensing procedures, and a portal that allowed people to apply for exploration licenses online.

Eliminate Delays
One of the biggest challenges faced by businesses in the mining sector, especially in India, is the time taken to acquire a permit and receive environmental clearance. Chile found a solution to this by requiring a ruling to be issued within 120 days of submission, failing which approval would be considered granted.

Develop Infrastructure
While well-developed infrastructure is required for every industry, dedicated locomotives and transport routes to and from ports are integral to boosting mineral export revenues. China, which is known for its mineral production and export, is estimated to move one billion tonnes of coal, steel, grains and fertilisers using 12,000 coastal vessels. [1][3] The country also boasts of special rail links that allow the minerals to be transported to the ports in a fast, efficient and cost-effective way.

Collect Data
The power of data has never been more apparent than it is today, and its value in the exploration sector is no secret. This makes it essential for governments to maintain seismic, geochemical, geophysical and geological data for the entire country. It’s no coincidence that Australia, a leader in the sector, boasts of the availability of geological and geophysical data on its entire land area and has geochemical information about 91% of the country. [1][2] Also noteworthy is Canada’s comprehensive Geographical Information System that, in addition to maintaining data about its resources, also contains detailed records of land ownership and use to prevent any disputes. [11]

Real-Time Data Mining
The mining industry is warming up to big data, as an increasing number of firms turn to it to identify trends and maximise their profits. But the future is real-time, and Russia’s Yalevskogo mine recognised just that. Sensors on the miners’ helmets are used by engineers to track their movements on the go, whereas big data systems relay real-time information from the mines using the internet, helping create a massive, accurate database. [4] It hardly comes as a surprise that the same longwall mine surpassed the global monthly record for coal extraction in July 2017. [10]

Mine Sustainably
Sustainability is perhaps more important in the mining sector than any other. Realising this, South Africa laid down a set of recommendations and guidelines to encourage sustainable mining. Helping firms make balanced and informed decisions regarding the extraction and use of natural resources, it provides insight into minimising exploration’s impact on health and safety, alleviating poverty through mining activities, and boosting competitiveness in the industry. [5]
In India, Vedanta has worked towards mitigating the environmental impact of extraction activities by providing support for the cleaning of ponds, helping build irrigation channels, setting up water harvesting structures, and leading community afforestation & biodiversity initiatives. [12]

Protection of Indigenous Population
Leveraging natural resources is crucial for a country’s economic growth. However, this economic growth should not come at the cost of the wellbeing of its indigenous population, their land or culture. Brazilian legislation forbids mining activities in areas reserved for its indigenous populations, and any exploration in indigenous areas requires prior approval from the Brazilian National Congress. Additionally, any royalties from the exploitation of these deposits must be shared with the indigenous communities. Similar provisions are also made for the land owned by the Quilombolas, whose ancestors escaped from slave owners before slavery was abolished in 1888. [8][9]

Think Long Term
Plans for mining operations must cover a mine’s entire life cycle, right until closure. Too often, governments have been left to bear the cost of a mine’s closure. This is why, Western Australia and Canada require organisations to submit bonds or pay large percentages of the mine closure cost upfront as security. [1][7]

Develop Mining Regions
For mining to be truly sustainable, the companies conducting these activities must invest time, money and personnel into developing the regions surrounding them. While most mining corporations provide the locals a livelihood by hiring them to work in the mines, closures can leave the community high and dry. Northwestern Canada’s Sullivan mine recognised the importance of developing alternate revenue streams for the local community. Throughout the mine’s life cycle, they worked closely with the government and locals to develop the surrounding Rocky Mountains into a tourist destination, even constructing a ski hill and a golf course in the area. [6]
At home, the CSR arm of Vedanta Resources has undertaken a number of initiatives to empower local communities as well. These include, but are not limited to, setting up the Sesa Football Academy, fostering skill development of the youth, upgrading schools, building sanitation facilities and organising cultural events for local communities. [12]

Encourage Industry Associations
Industry bodies are integral for a number of reasons. But one of their most important functions, especially for small and medium-sized ventures, is the ability to receive guidance on the best practices in their field. This makes it imperative for governments to encourage industry associations, which allow these best practices to reach organisations throughout the sector, irrespective of their size. Australia is home to a number of mining-related trade bodies, such as the Minerals Council of Australia, Mining and Energy Services Council of Australia, Australian Resources and Energy Group, Australian Mining Association and the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, among many others.
[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global Themes/India/Putting India on the growth path/Putting India on the growth path.ashx
[2] https://mines.gov.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/Strategy Paper for Ministry of Mines.pdf
[3] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/variety/coastal-shipping-is-the-way-to-go/article20770581.ece1https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/variety/coastal-shipping-is-the-way-to-go/article20770581.ece1
[4] https://www.ft.com/content/addb7e2a-b90d-11e7-9bfb-4a9c83ffa852
[5] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/dsd_aofw_ni/ni_pdfs/NationalReports/south_africa/Mining.pdf
[6] http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTOGMC/Resources/notoverwhenover.pdf
[7] http://www.vtt.fi/inf/pdf/technology/2016/T264.pdf
[8] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-landrights-slaves/slaves-descendants-in-brazil-braced-for-land-titles-fight-idUSKCN1GI204https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-landrights-slaves/slaves-descendants-in-brazil-braced-for-land-titles-fight-idUSKCN1GI204
[9] https://gettingthedealthrough.com/area/22/jurisdiction/6/mining-brazil/
[10] https://in.reuters.com/article/russia-kremlin-pr/exclusive-kremlin-tells-companies-to-deliver-good-news-idINKBN1DE0OB
[11] http://sk.sagepub.com/reference/geoinfoscience/n11.xml
[12] http://www.vedantalimited.com/media/113455/approved_csr_policy_-_july_25__2017.pdf

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