Sustainability is arguably the most widely used environmental ‘buzzword’ of the past decade. It has been commonly used and misused to denote a variety of concepts. However, despite some confusion in its meaning, its overall premise has been embraced by regulators and by many industries, including mining.
Opponents of mining commonly claim that it is not a sustainable activity. This might seem strange for an activity that has persisted since the Stone Age. Two arguments are used against mining being sustainable. Firstly, the fact that the minerals themselves are nonrenewable suggests that, eventually, mineral stocks will be exhausted. There is abundant evidence to indicate that this situation will never arise. The second argument is that mining makes irreversible changes to the physical, ecological and social environment, which cannot be applied to most of man’s other activities and indeed, to many natural events. The key here is that the benefits of mining (or other activity) should outweigh any negative impacts.
The concept of sustainability derives from the idea of sustainable development as popularized by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987.This commission was chaired by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, and is widely known as the Brundtland Commission. In the words of the Brundtland Report (WCED 1987), sustainable development means ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. It is in the context of this definition that the sustainability of mining is assessed in this paper. Clearly, the concept of sustainability will vary depending on what is being sustained. Sustainable agriculture, for example, refers to agricultural systems that can be continued indefinitely without system failure.As the professional manufacturer of complete sets of mining machinery, such as ball mills, Henan Hongxing is always doing the best in products and service.
The Three Circles of Sustainable Development
A widely held view of sustainable development is that it refers at once to economic, social and ecological needs (Figure 1). According to this view (Spitz and Trudinger 2008), there must be no single focus (or object) of sustainability, but instead all economic, social and ecological systems must be simultaneously sustainable. Satisfying any one of these three sustainability circles without also satisfying the others is deemed insufficient. Each of the three circles is independently crucial, but they are interconnected. There is, therefore, a risk of unwittingly causing (or worsening) problems in one system while attempting to correct problems in another.
The only sure way to avoid this is to integrate decisions such that effects in all three systems are considered before action is taken.
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