Save Earth- CSR for the mining industry

 Current Situation

With the growth in economy there has been extensive pressure on resources. There has been a significant increase in the mining operations across the world. Though it aids in the development, it comes with its own set of problems, the most lethal of them being Dust, Land and Water Pollution. Lets us see how we can go about fixing these issues so that they have a minimal adverse impact on our ecosystem.

Keeping in check the nuisance called Dust Pollution

Studies suggest that for every mile of unpaved road lacking road dust control, a ton of material from that road is removed every year for every automobile that travels on it. Without the help of wind, this nuisance dust can travel up to 500 feet from the road into the air, which can have catastrophically results for mankind and the environment. In some parts of the world dust abatement is practised by the continuous sprinkling of water. But such a method is not cost effective, not only does it cause the running costs to go up but also leads to further soil erosion and cannot be considered as an effective loose soil binder. To crown the effect the supply of water is also a major problem and may put additional pressure on the resources. Thus I think just using water might not alleviate Mining Industries current problems.

The Industry needs to have a look at the current working conditions, the primary concern is the dust pollution and this needs to be controlled, there are various road stabilising cost effective products available in the market.

These products are available from polymer innovations and eco road Africa to name a few of the more prominent firms. Let us look at them one by one.

EcoRoadAfrica Road Dust Control products are for extreme conditions where dust control is more difficult due to the higher and heavier traffic. These use higher concentrations of chemical products which check dust pollution on roads or any other area with extremely heavy traffic. The EcoRoadAfrica Program uses a proprietary product  which acts as a powerful, environmentally safe, liquid soil binder that permanently attaches itself to dust particles and tightly binds them together so that they will be heavy and rendered incapable of becoming airborne. A curing process will then irreversibly transform a mixture of our this  dust control formula , dust, and aggregate into a permanently hardened membrane. Occasional maintenance applications, as needed, will control dust pollution on a permanent basis. Using this not only can the cost be brought down (as compared to making a new road) ,but will also assist in having roads which are stable and have heightened longevity, not to forget the health and environment benefits that can be derived out of this synergy. Such products also assist in checking runoffs and soil erosion. So to summarise the benefits of this product one can say that:

-Reduces dust pollution significantly

-Reduces recurring costs i.e. continuous water application or road maintenance

-Provides stabilized and long lasting roads

If this were not all, studies have shown that this product technically applies for itself. As mentioned earlier the cost of this product is way less than preparing a new road, it also brings down maintenance cost, thus justifying the initial expense. Another thing to be noted is on reapplication of this product the initial bonding gets better and stronger thus increasing the life of the road.

Another product worth considering is Water Save dust Suppression. This is manufactured by polymer innovations and is widely used across the hunter valley in NSW region of Australia. This is basically a polymer blend which when added in correct proportions to the soil aids in binding the loose material. Though a little expensive to the pocket but it has its own benefits. It is a water soluble polymer and causes no known environmental damage. To summarize the synergies that can be drawn from using this product, we can say that:

-Rapidly dissolves in water carts without gel blocking.

-Safe & easy to apply.

-Reduces evaporation, no need for continuous water applications.

-Reduces water consumption & costs by 50%.

-Reduces wear & tear on equipment.

-Dust exposure for humans & animals is quickly & accurately reduced.

-Non toxic, biodegradable & environmentally friendly.

There are also established players in the market like Dust Control Solutions, an Australian company which sells customized solutions, depending on the site to reduce the dust pollution.

Nullifying the Negative Health Effects

Although it is widely known that the organizations are big time into CSR ,but I still feel that it is always a little less. Under their CSR operations they have started schools, hospitals. They have also earmarked millions of dollars for the community development work. I feel that more efficient expenditure of this community development fund will yield more results in the long run. The organization needs to spend more on health centres, doctors and the infrastructure needed to provide better medical facilities to the people living in the region. Studies suggest that most people in the world die because of contaminated water,portable,arable and clean drinking water is a basic human necessity and swift steps should be taken by the organization to provide clean water to the people of the region.

Most of the areas where mining is done, trees are chopped down or uprooted causing significant damage to the ecosystem. This not only leads to soil erosion, dust pollution, groundwater contamination, agricultural land contamination but also causes irreversible damage to the biodiversity of the region. Care needs to be given to plant more trees ,which will not only aid in binding the soil but will also assist in sustaining the ground water level and also assist in cleansing out the environment of the harmful contaminants that are a by product of mining.

Organizations need to focus on spending more on infrastructure(roads,maintenace,mining practices) in the coming years so as to avoid the dust pollution. The above Suggested Solutions need to be pondered over seriously as it is not only the dust pollution which is caused by the loose soil, but also other forms of much dangerous pollutions(water and soil) which have a significant effect on the food chain.

The effluents and the mining waste is somehow finding its way to the agricultural fields and water bodies, contaminating them and putting the whole ecosystem at a risk. Money needs to be spent on equipment, filters, which can check this unscrupulous contamination.

Land is the best resource that we as a civilization have and safeguards need to be put in place to check unwanted contamination and erosion. Most of the times the dumping grounds for by-products and waste are not identified properly. Due diligence needs to be exercised while choosing such dumping grounds.

There are various models developed by USDA (analyses the impact of non-point source pollutants ) and IARI (groundwater models which can be used to analyse the impact of manmade and natural actions on groundwater behaviour which will help the farmers for optimal utilisation of groundwater resources for sustainable agriculture ).The organization must spend effort, manpower and resources on crunching these models and to come up with the best  fit to keep the soil pollution and water pollution at bay.

The Future

There are ways and checks that can assist in bringing down the pollution levels, what is lacking is a strong resolve. Most of the above mentioned efforts are quantified and a balance is struck which hampers the bottom-line in the least possible way, but what really matters over here is not the material cost but the social cost of the actions of the organization. If the organizational practices do not bear in mind the necessary environmental considerations, the business cannot be sustained .More importantly the damage done to the whole ecosystem would be irreversible and intense enough to wreak havoc. Proper Processes, Safeguards and Systems need to be put in places which check pollution at regular intervals. The CSR function needs to be strengthened further to align with the aspirations of the local people. Emphasis should not be on just material costs but on social costs which can never be quantified in the short run, but will surely ensure sustainability in the long run.

[The article has been written by Neelesh Khattar. He is an MBA from VG Som IIT Kharagpur. He has 5 years of experience with Infosys  Technologies Ltd., where he worked on multiple domains like insurance, digital publishing and health care.]


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