Has The Mining Industry Learned From Past Disasters?

Date posted: May 12, 2016

A quick Google search is all it takes to find the world’s worst examples of the devastating consequences of unregulated mining and the pursuit of profit over the long-term protection of the environment. In developing countries, entire towns and settlements have been affected by indiscriminate mining operations, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries, and on-going health issues like lead poisoning, leukaemia, birth defects and brain cancers.

Here in Australia, we have our own recent examples. Wittenoom in the Pilbara region of Western Australia was at the centre of a blue asbestos mine which closed in 1996 after many former workers and their family members developed asbestosis and mesothelioma. The 470 square kilometre area is still classified as a contaminated site.

Hard Lessons Learned and Applied

The mining industry has learned many lessons from this and other such disasters and these have formed the basis of our current mining and rehabilitation methods. As suppliers of equipment, labour and other services to the mining industry, we have a responsibility to our clients, and the broader community to conduct our operations using these methods and principles.

Our company, the Reay Services Group, is working on significant projects in the Bowen and Surat Basins. We work to the environmental and operational restrictions that evolved to solve the problems caused by now-outdated and discredited practices. Mining projects are approved only after an Environmental Assessment (EA) process has been undertaken by the Queensland government involving extensive public consultation and review.

Modern Mining Based on Legislative and Moral Responsibilities

We not only have responsibilities under legislation and the terms of our contracts with our clients, but we also have a moral responsibility as a good corporate citizen to minimise the impact our operations have on the environment and the local communities. There are small towns, farms and livestock properties near some of our work sites. The people who live there are entitled to go about their daily lives without being adversely affected by our operations.

Reclamation and Revegetation Preserves the Environment for Future Generations

There are already many examples in Australia of mine sites where the natural resource was extracted and reclamation work carried out at the end of mining operations. Sand mining on North Stradbroke Island has been ongoing for many years, but visitors to this beautiful location would be largely unaware of its presence. As an area is mined, it is revegetated and tourists using the walking tracks would not be able to pick the mined areas from those unmined.

Future of the Industry Depends on Generating Goodwill

The mining industry now has the benefit of experience and hindsight, and uses the knowledge gained by scientists and environmental specialists to minimise the impact of mining operations. The industry will only survive by generating goodwill through responsible practices, and we hope to be a part of that process for many years to come.