Economic development and environmental preservation need to go hand in hand in order to secure the future of the next generation. This is the key goal of Sustainable Mineral Resource Development. As mining continues to be a large contributor to economies around the world, the mineral sector is encouraged to operate with lesser environmental impact.

Sustainable Development was a concept coined by the <World Commission on Environment and Development, which through the years has evolved amid the changing times. Initially, the concept of sustainable development focused on preserving ecological systems, but today the concept encompasses social and environmental protection at different levels.

Moreover, sustainable development today includes the principles of intergenerational equity, the precautionary principle, public participation, and the integration of economic and environmental objectives. In simple terms, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

When it comes to the mineral resource sector, sustainable development means adhering to the highest environmental standards while achieving good economic performance. This is crucial as while mineral exploration still poses effects on the environment and communities, the industry will continue to grow to meet the needs of the ballooning population especially in emerging economies around the world.

Steps to Achieve Sustainable Mineral Resource Development

So how exactly can we achieve Sustainable Mineral Resource Development? Various organizations and studies propose innovative steps in order to achieve the goal.

The pushes for responsible mining through the development and integration of practices that reduce environmental impact. ASEAN also suggests the rehabilitation of mined-out areas and improving the recycling of mineral-based products to further preserve mineral commodities. 

By adhering to these steps, ASEAN points out that communities will be able to reap social and economic benefits through strong and effective legal and regulatory frameworks and policies. A safe and healthy environment for future generations will also be secured.

<MineralsUK, British Geological Survey Centre for Sustainable Mineral Development,  suggests three steps to achieve sustainable development in the mineral sector: planning at the local, regional, national, and EU level; recycling; and conservation of resources.

MineralsUK shares that planning needs to take into account “all the legislation, policy, and guidance” with the goal to supply the minerals needed for the industry and construction at a minimal “social, economic, and environmental cost.” Meanwhile, designing products with  recycling in mind, especially those that contain minerals, is a critical step towards sustainability in the resource sector. MineralsUK also points out that the preservation of environmental resources like water, which plays a significant role in mining and extraction, should be prioritized through closely monitoring water drainage in order to avoid contaminating aquatic habitats.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ International Resource Panel released a report titled <Mineral Resource Governance in the 21st Century: Gearing Extractive Industries Towards Sustainable Development<, suggesting ways for the mineral sector to preserve environmental resources and protect the rights of communities while improving economic performance.

The report proposes replacing the “social license to operate” concept with a new governance framework for the mineral sector dubbed as “Sustainable Development Licence to Operate.” The proposed license includes “consensus-based principles, policy options, and best practices” that are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. The said license is also designed to “minimize the negative impacts of the mineral sector on the environment, society, and economy,” and to discover opportunities to achieve sustainable development.

Exploration Companies at the Forefront of Sustainability

As the mineral sector continues to evolve in order to achieve sustainability, various exploration companies across the world have already taken big initiatives in order to achieve sustainable development.

For example, resource company <Angkor Resources (TSXV: ANK | OTCQB: ANKOF) has ventured into a which aims to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. At the same time, the project will help provide clean natural gas to homes and businesses in Canada. When it comes to responsible energy consumption, Angkor Resources has been considering energy source alternatives and has constantly monitored and tracked its consumption. Meanwhile, when it comes to water usage, Angkor considers water utilization as a part of its analysis when determining its various project initiatives.

Another exploration company that pushes for sustainability is <Marksmen Energy Inc.< (TSXV: MAH, OTCQB: MKSEF) with light oil assets in Ohio. The majority of Marksmen’s wells require no hydraulic fracturing and have a relatively long life expectancy, which can last up to 10 years. The company has also been working with a scientific research company to convert a well to carbon sequestration. Marksmen also utilizes modern technology like <3D seismic in its mining programs which significantly lowers the risk involved in drilling new wells.

The Road Ahead

As the world continues to strive to reach a more sustainable future, it is commendable how the resource sector has adapted transformative ways in order to extract minerals while minimizing environmental effects.

The road towards sustainable development is still a steep one, but with the unified efforts of governments, organizations, and the mining industry across the globe, both economic progress and sustainability are possible to attain together, at the same time, in this lifetime.

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