Page 13

The Ecology of Industry.  1998. Pp. 13-26.
Washington, DC:  National Academy

The Extractive Industries

PRESTON S. CHIARO AND G. FRANK JOKLIK

Introduction

Extractive industries are commonly viewed as having unacceptable impacts on the environment. By their very nature, these industries use energy and disturb the land in extracting the resource being developed. Sustainable development of an extracted resource is a paradoxical concept. Further, there appears to be an inherent, economically based conflict between the extraction of virgin materials and the reduction in the amount of use, reuse, or recycling of these same materials. Indeed, reduction, reuse, and recycling can be viewed as competitors to the extractive industries. How are these apparent conflicts reconciled?

Industrial ecology takes a systems view of the connections between industries. This view embraces all inputs and outputs of energy and materials. One way to reconcile the apparent conflicts described above is to view the extractive industries as an isolated system. The life cycle of such a system is then limited to the material in question but does not extend to any products derived from it. Then an attempt can be made to minimize the amount of energy and resources that go into extracting a particular raw material and to minimize the amount of waste that is created. To address the issue of sustainable development, defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," extractive industries, by locating new resources and developing more efficient means of extracting and processing the raw materials, enable future generations to enjoy the benefits of these resources. Further, there are multiple possible uses for the land from which the raw materials are extracted. Taking care in the extraction, processing, and transportation of the raw materials can maximize al-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 13
Page 13 The Ecology of Industry.  1998. Pp. 13-26. Washington, DC:  National Academy The Extractive Industries PRESTON S. CHIARO AND G. FRANK JOKLIK Introduction Extractive industries are commonly viewed as having unacceptable impacts on the environment. By their very nature, these industries use energy and disturb the land in extracting the resource being developed. Sustainable development of an extracted resource is a paradoxical concept. Further, there appears to be an inherent, economically based conflict between the extraction of virgin materials and the reduction in the amount of use, reuse, or recycling of these same materials. Indeed, reduction, reuse, and recycling can be viewed as competitors to the extractive industries. How are these apparent conflicts reconciled? Industrial ecology takes a systems view of the connections between industries. This view embraces all inputs and outputs of energy and materials. One way to reconcile the apparent conflicts described above is to view the extractive industries as an isolated system. The life cycle of such a system is then limited to the material in question but does not extend to any products derived from it. Then an attempt can be made to minimize the amount of energy and resources that go into extracting a particular raw material and to minimize the amount of waste that is created. To address the issue of sustainable development, defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," extractive industries, by locating new resources and developing more efficient means of extracting and processing the raw materials, enable future generations to enjoy the benefits of these resources. Further, there are multiple possible uses for the land from which the raw materials are extracted. Taking care in the extraction, processing, and transportation of the raw materials can maximize al-

OCR for page 13
Page 14 ternative-use options for the lands from which the materials were extracted. The objective should be to extract and process materials within environmental constraints and to maintain or successfully restore the other values of the site after the resource has been extracted. This paper raises some key industrial-ecology-related issues of the extractive industries, particularly mining. Historical, current, and potential future practices are examined in an attempt to identify opportunities for and barriers to improvement. This is not an exhaustive review. Rather, the focus is on four topics: environmental stewardship; environmental regulations; life-cycle practices; and cultural and organizational change. Environmental Stewardship Like most industries in the United States, the extractive industries have left a legacy of environmental problems. Early miners either did not understand the effects of their activities or believed that there was so much land available that it simply did not matter if some areas were damaged. Today, these adverse effects are seen as a problem that needs to be addressed. Geography, geology, climate, and topography play critical roles in determining the type of waste produced and how mining can be conducted, thereby directly influencing the environmental consequences of the mining activity. Mining must, of course, be located where the mineral or other resource naturally occurs. The geology of the ore body or resource deposit dictates not only what target metals or resources are present, but also what nontarget or undesirable materials must be removed or disturbed during mining. Climate has direct effects on surface-water and groundwater hydrology and the management of mine drainage. In addition, temperature, winds, and other climatic factors influence how the mining can be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Finally, topography affects not only hydrology and site access, but also placement of waste rock, processing facilities, and reclamation. Many of these constraints are unique to the extractive industries. Early problems with coal mining, especially acid mine drainage, appeared first in the eastern United States. The proximity of population centers made these problems not only immediately apparent, but also likely to adversely affect large numbers of people. To address this legacy of poor environmental stewardship, Congress passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) in 1977. SMCRA, a classic command-and-control approach to dealing with environmental problems, created a federal agency to oversee coal mining activities. Although SMCRA caused hardships among the coal mining industry, often forcing smaller operators out of business, it has virtually eliminated the abuses of the past. Further, through imposition of a tax on current coal production, SMCRA is generating the funds necessary to address long-standing problems. Typically, these funds are collected and used on a state-by-state basis. In a few states (e.g.,

OCR for page 13
Page 15 Wyoming, where ongoing coal production from the Powder River basin is substantial), the funds recovered from current coal production have exceeded the amount needed to address historical coal-mining problems. This funding scheme provides some incentive for states to encourage new coal mining. Hard-rock mining has also left a legacy of environmental problems, especially in the western United States. Acid drainage, habitat destruction, historical smelter emissions, and toxic waste piles are among the most prevalent negative impacts. Although the land area affected by hard-rock mines is only a fraction of I percent of total land area in the West, many of these former mining areas are now becoming more heavily populated. Other old mining areas are becoming popular vacation spots, and many are located near national and state parks and other recreation areas. As the visibility of these problem areas grows and population centers expand toward them, concerns about damage caused by mining and its effects on human health and the environment are heightened. Every western mining state has passed legislation requiring currently operating mines to address these environmental concerns, and all new mines are required to reclaim the land they disturb. Some states have implemented programs to begin to deal with problems caused by past mining activities. However, there is as yet no comprehensive national system to address historical mine-waste issues. Indeed, there is disagreement over the scope and complexity of the problem. Some estimates indicate that there might be over 500,000 abandoned hard-rock mine sites in the United States. However, few of these sites pose any immediate threat to human health or the environment. Modern mining companies for the most part recognize their responsibility to the environment and have adjusted their practices to avoid the problems of the past. Corporate codes of environmental practice and periodic environmental audits are now becoming standard practice throughout the industry. Standard environmental goals include ·      zero-water discharges; ·      minimization of air discharges; ·      land reclamation that maintains, restores, or replaces site values (other than the value of the resource that is removed) whenever practical (in some cases, such restoration to original conditions is not practical and might even entail net environmental costs, such as the energy costs of backfilling open-pit mines); ·      cleanup of abandoned historical sites or problems (e.g., idle oil wells, depleted hard rock mines, contaminated aquifers, acid mine drainage, or visual impacts); ·      continual improvement in the classification and utilization of wastes; and ·      continual improvement in the recycling abilities of smelters. Improved environmental practices are being instituted not only in the extraction of the ore, but also in the processing of the ore to create raw materials for use

OCR for page 13
Page 16 in other industries. Consistent with an industrial ecology perspective, there has been a general shift from a linear-flow-of-production model to an ecosystem model. Leading firms begin environmental studies as soon as resources are discovered and apply design-for-environment principles to extraction, waste handling, and remediation plans from the earliest stages of project development. One example is the treatment of waste rock that has the potential to generate acids by leaching. Strategies include segregating acid-generating rock from nonacid-generating rock; keeping air and water from the acid-generating rock; keeping air and water from the acid-generating material during storage (e.g., by covering or encapsulating); mixing the acid-generating material with other materials that have a large acid-buffering capacity; or placing the acid-generating material below the water table to prevent the oxidation of acid-generating sulfides. Some operations even take advantage of acid drainage to recover useful metals from the solution. Expenses devoted to environmental protection are coming to be perceived as wise investments rather than financial sinkholes. In some cases, the investment value is quite tangible. In addition to avoiding future liabilities, such efforts can also provide income through the sale of pollution permits (M.J. Wilson, WZI Inc., personal communication, 1994). Spending for environmental protection might also lead to competitive advantage. For example, contractors working for the Europipe consortium building an oil pipeline under the Wadden Sea, a United Nations Biosphere Reserve on Germany's North Sea coast, found that abiding by environmental management standards improved the likelihood of their being hired on future projects (Grann, 1997). Opportunities for recycling are limited in some of the extractive industries and common in others. For example, residues can be fed back to the concentrating, smelting, or refining operations, thereby recovering essentially all of the valuable metals. Indeed, some smelting operations produce slag with higher metals concentrations than the ore being mined. As a result, this slag is processed to recover those metals. More commonly, used batteries, metal drums, and used tires are returned to the manufacturers or suppliers for recycling. Used oil is often burned in approved and permitted waste-oil burners to recover energy as heat. On a larger scale, many opportunities for reclaiming mines, including many abandoned sites, are being pursued. As population pressures have increased the demand for land, abandoned mines are being reclaimed for recreational, industrial, commercial, and even residential use. Many of the acid mine drainage problems of the past are being controlled through the use of conventional and innovative treatment systems. However, many of these end-of-pipe approaches have very high capital and operating costs. Extraction of an ore body or resource deposit, like any industrial process, generates three basic outputs: products, by-products, and waste. These outputs are not always defined precisely. For instance, many of the by-products of extrac-

OCR for page 13
Page 17 tion and processing have historically been considered waste. Coal-bed methane has typically been vented to the atmosphere, for example. Studies are under way to devise safe and efficient means of capturing and processing this methane to enhance energy supplies and reduce emissions. Used oil from mining equipment is being studied for use in blasting. Blasting operations normally employ a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. If concerns over the fate of heavy metals in the used oil can be resolved, perhaps it could be substituted for the virgin fuel oil normally used. Numerous opportunities exist for improving the energy efficiency of extraction operations. For example, conveyor transport of coal or ore and waste rock can be much more energy efficient than truck or rail haulage. Trade-offs between engine efficiency and emissions must be examined closely. Significant progress has been and continues to be made in this area. Much work remains to be done to return mined land, particularly land at abandoned mines, to productive use. Approaches are needed that eliminate the generation of acid mine or acid rock drainage at abandoned mine sites. Use of artificial or enhanced wetlands to treat acid drainage is but one example of so-called passive technology that can address this problem. Reprocessing of historical waste using more efficient recovery methods can eliminate the source of acid rock drainage in some cases. Restoration of mined land—for wildlife habitat, parks, or other productive uses—must be encouraged. As discussed above, outputs that have historically been considered waste could be utilized as by-products, if processing, transportation, and marketing barriers can be overcome. One key obstacle is the difficulty of communicating what by-product materials are available to those who might be interested in using them. Producers are often reluctant to provide detailed specifications of wastes or byproducts for fear that competitors might gain an advantage from this knowledge. This reluctance can be minimized during resource extraction but is more difficult to overcome in the mineral-processing phase. Another opportunity for extractive industries is to consider the development of a resource using a design-for-environment philosophy. For example, the use of more energy-efficient hauling and crushing operations provides direct benefits to the operator and also numerous indirect benefits such as reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. Similarly, energy recovery from waste-heat boilers connected with smelting operations offers opportunities to reduce energy requirements in mineral-processing facilities. Schemes to recycle or reuse water within the mining and processing operations reduce the demand on clean water supplies and the discharge of used water, which normally contains pollutants. Further opportunities exist to maximize the recovery of by-products (and thereby minimize the generation of waste) through more efficient capture and segregation of by-product streams. More efficient capture of sulfur dioxide from smelters, for example, increases the production of sulfuric acid, which is the most common commercially traded chemical in the United States. Flue dust from

OCR for page 13
Page 18 smelters, which is often considered a hazardous waste, can contain very high concentrations of useful metals, and systems are being developed that allow the recovery of those valuable by-products. A good deal of progress has been made in pollution prevention and waste minimization. Examples include the minimization of sulfur and ash from coal; improved means of disposal of toxic by-products of metals mining and processing; improvements in energy efficiency; more recycling of scrap; and better planning for the closure of mines (although the industry should beware of underestimating the costs of proper mine closure). Environmental Regulations Most current regulations are based on command-and-control procedures that assume linear streams of production and disposal. These procedures can inhibit innovation that would improve the environmental performance of the industry. For example, regulations can discourage interindustry assistance through bioremediation and other techniques due to company concerns about being named a potentially responsible party at a later date. They can also delay or even prevent remediation of acid drainage from old mines. For example, the National Park Service (NPS) has been trying to partner with a mining company to address historical mine waste and acid drainage on NPS land. No one has stepped forward, again because of concerns over legal liability. Initiatives now being developed under the guidance of the National Science and Technology Council might encourage such partnerships in the future. Some environmental standards are excessively rigid or conservative. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) cleanup standards regarding soil contamination are based on assumptions about how much soil children might ingest. However, regardless of how much dirt children eat, metals in mine tailings have low bioavailability; that is, they are mostly insoluble and simply pass through the digestive system. Thus, at least until recently, EPA's models overestimated bioavailability, and EPA consequently dictated maximum soil-metal concentrations lower than those that would be adequate to protect human health. These miscalculations have affected cleanup efforts at Aspen and Leadville, Colorado; Butte, Montana; Triumph, Idaho; and Salt Lake City, Utah. The rigidity of current regulations does not allow cleanup practices to be tailored to particular sites. For example, in some cases, EPA's requirements dictate that the concentrations of metals in soil or water be reduced below the ambient concentration. Environmental protection dollars could be spent more cost effectively if background conditions were taken into consideration in decisions regarding acceptable contaminant levels at closed sites. Environmental regulations associated with specific media (water, air, and land) are common in the extractive industries, as they are in other industries in the United States. To date, such regulations have been highly structured and narrowly

OCR for page 13
Page 19 defined, often specifying the use of particular technology to address medium-specific problems. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Hazardous and Solid Waste Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act are virtually all medium-specific and assume a linear flow of materials through industrial processes resulting in waste to the environment. This type of regulatory approach drives compartmentalized environmental thinking in industry rather than encouraging the systems approach characterized by industrial ecology. In mineral processing, as in most conventional heavy industries, environmental stewardship has often consisted of end-of-pipe emissions controls. For pyrometallurgical (smelting) facilities, end-of-pipe treatment has typically relied on acid-control facilities and scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide and metals from the off-gases. Acidic, metals-laden wastewater from the scrubbers is typically treated with lime to neutralize the acid and precipitate the metals. Similarly, wastewater from hydrometallurgical operations is often neutralized with lime. These end-of-pipe solutions have the effect of transferring the environmental problem from one medium to another. For example, off-gases from smelting are scrubbed to remove metals and sulfur dioxide, but the problem is simply transferred from air to water, which is then treated to remove the metals and acid. The result is a sometimes hazardous solid waste that must then be managed. EPA's enforcement of these laws has been similarly compartmentalized. The agency still believes that its policy of ''enforcement first," which is typically carried out one law at a time, will yield the best results. Although this command-and-control, medium-specific approach has generated some successes, it has also stifled innovation. In addition, because some of these programs are delegated to states, and often the regulations are enforced by different agencies with different priorities, the costs of complying with regulations add up very quickly. EPA's approach has often led industries to shift the environmental problem from one medium to another, without eliminating the real source of the problem. EPA has recently announced that it will assemble multimedia inspection teams to examine environmental impacts in water, air, and land at a particular site. This is a good first step toward considering environmental effects holistically, but the approach should not be limited to enforcement situations. Flexible methods for determining the relative risks and benefits of the traditional command-and-control approach versus a more voluntary, incentive-driven approach must be explored. Use of public education and pressure, for example, can be a very effective method for encouraging industries to reduce the amount of toxic materials they release into the environment. Perhaps one of the best success stories is the toxic release inventory, in which EPA publishes the amount of toxic materials released to the environment from companies in various industries. Companies have a strong public relations incentive to not be ranked high on this list, and many firms have publicly committed themselves to specific reduction goals. To encourage innovative approaches to minimizing waste, there must also be incentives for industry to take risks without

OCR for page 13
Page 20 fear of heavy-handed enforcement if their innovative solutions do not meet or exceed established goals. Future environmental rules and regulations should provide a better balance of carrots and sticks. The industry would have more incentive to take voluntary action if the regulators gave credit for such actions. For example, Kennecott Utah Copper's modernized smelter will have emissions levels far below those required by regulations. When it starts up, the permissible emissions rate for sulfur dioxide will be 3,200 lb/h, but the actual emissions rate will be less than 200 lb/h. However, because final rules have not yet been promulgated for nonferrous smelters, federal agencies have been reluctant to give Kennecott acid rain credits for its excess reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions. (Final rules have been promulgated for electric power utilities, permitting companies to take credit immediately for sulfur dioxide reductions.) Other examples of voluntary actions include Kennecott's cleanup of lead tailings off Kennecott property along Bingham Creek in Utah (neither Kennecott nor any of its predecessors mined or milled lead ores); reclamation of hundreds of acres of waste-rock dumps, even though not required by any regulation; and demolition and reclamation of obsolete facilities. None of these actions was called for by regulators, nor was any credit given for exceeding requirements. Regulations that are sensitive to the characteristics of particular sites would allow a more efficient allocation of funds to environmental protection and remediation efforts. Rather than reducing contaminant concentrations below ambient levels at one site, for example, funds could be invested more productively elsewhere. In addition to being sensitive to the background chemistry of a site, regulations should be sensitive to other site features as well, such as grade, impurities, geometry of the ore body, and climate. For example, a mine that generates waste rock that is not acid producing would not need extensive water protection efforts, because acid drainage would not be a factor (Box 1). Similarly, a mine generating acid-producing waste rock in a very dry climate would not need the same extent of water-protection efforts as a similar mine in a wet climate. Greater efforts need to be made to allocate efficiently funds for environmental protection by ensuring that the regulations are scientifically defensible, not excessively conservative. In many cases, interdisciplinary discussions might be necessary to achieve consensus regarding appropriate standards. Regulations need to distinguish between past practices, existing operations, and new developments. It might make sense to apply separate sets of regulations for new and existing mines and another set for past practices. The rationale for this approach is based on cost-benefit analysis: The cost of avoiding a problem might be only a small fraction of the cost of correcting the problem. If the notions that benefits should somehow be related to costs and that funding is limited (or that funds could be spent to greater effect if used elsewhere) are accepted, then it might make sense, from a societal view, to accept some degradation in limited areas. Although past practices have left a legacy of environmental problems, most

OCR for page 13
Page 21 BOX 1   Acid Drainage Acid drainage forms when sulfur (present in ores in the form of metal sulfides such as pyrite and FeS2) reacts with oxygen and water to form sulfuric acid. This acidic solution can dissolve other minerals, thus leaching metals. A number of environmental problems are associated with this phenomenon, which also occurs naturally whenever sulfur-containing rocks are exposed to air and water. These include toxicity to plants and (mostly aquatic) animals, resulting not only from depressed pH (acidity), but also from the dissolution of toxic metals. Acid drainage can also cause physical habitat degradation, because when natural processes neutralize excess acidity, hydroxide precipitates are formed that can smother benthic organisms. Acid drainage can also cause visual pollution by staining streams and lakes. All of these problems stem from the initial acid-forming reactions. present operations are environmentally responsible and in compliance with existing rules and regulations. The most pressing environmental concerns of the industry are that ·      environmental regulations be based on sound science; ·      environmental regulations take into account local circumstances; ·      development of known reserves remains economically feasible; and ·      strategies developed for remediating historical problems do not threaten the short- or long-term viability of current and future operations. Addressing these concerns effectively will require the mining industry to convince the public and government that current operations are environmentally responsible. Doing this will, in turn, depend on effective communication and public education. Life-Cycle Practices Although recycling is common in some segments of the extractive industries, little in the way of formal life-cycle assessment (Box 2) is being done, mainly because of where materials extraction occurs in the life cycle of finished products. Making inventories of the energy and resources necessary to extract and process raw materials is relatively easy. However, should a life-cycle assessment (LCA) that evaluates the use and disposal of the raw materials be performed, given that the raw materials might have many uses? Even when the industry is viewed as a system unto itself, LCA is fraught with difficulties. For example, coal seams in the eastern United States are typically

OCR for page 13
Page 22 Box 2   Life-Cycle Assessment An environmental life-cycle assessment typically involves ·      taking stock (inventory) of all materials and energy inputs and outputs (including wastes) and associated environmental loadings of a product; ·      analyzing the impacts of the environmental loadings identified in the inventory; and ·      evaluating opportunities to reduce the environmental burden associated with the life cycle of that product. thin, and large areas of land must be disturbed to gain access to the coal. This coal is often high in sulfur content. Western coal, in contrast, is more often found in thick, continuous seams and has a lower sulfur content. However, reclamation of western lands can be more difficult because precipitation rates are lower, and the coal must often be shipped long distances for use in power plants. Is it the responsibility of the coal producer to consider these reclamation and transportation costs? How are the differences in sulfur content accounted for? Some power plants are equipped with scrubbers to remove sulfur from the off-gases, but these scrubbers typically produce large volumes of sludges that must be disposed of. When the hard-rock mining industry is examined, the complexities are even greater. Metals such as copper, zinc, and nickel are produced worldwide, and prices for these commodities are set on the world market. Inherent properties of the ore body impose constraints that cannot be easily overcome, particularly with respect to nontarget metals such as arsenic or mercury. In the mineral-processing area, more traditional LCA approaches can be used. Mining and petroleum companies have an interest in the fate of their products after they are sold, but they are most interested in extraction and primary processing. Thus, the life-cycle concept is most usefully applied to the life of the mine or oil field, not the life of the product. To be useful for the extractive industries, LCA must be able to carefully describe the system. This requires appropriate metrics. For coal extraction, for example, one appropriate metric might be the ratio of the amount of energy needed to extract a unit of coal to the amount of energy that unit can provide. Although such a metric might be appropriate when the system to be considered is the coal mine itself, it is probably not appropriate when the amount of energy needed to ship this coal and the production efficiency of the generating station are considered. For a system defined as the processes and facilities needed to deliver energy

OCR for page 13
Page 23 to an end user, a better metric might be the energy required to deliver a unit of energy to the end user. This measure would take into account not only the energy used in mining the coal, but also, for example, the energy used to transport the coal and convert the coal into electricity and the energy lost in conveying the generated electricity to the end user. The issue here is: Who defines the appropriate system? Certainly, a coal producer cannot be expected to cope with the complexities of rail transport, power generation, and power transmission, let alone the complex social and economic issues that surround siting rail lines versus power transmission corridors or disposal of ash and scrubber residue. Metals extraction poses similar systems definition and measurement challenges. If the system is defined as the mine itself, inherent properties of the ore body will dictate most of the characteristics associated with waste generation. Stripping ratios (i.e., the amount of overburden, or waste rock, that must be moved to expose a given quantity of ore), ore grades, accessory mineral content, and other factors determine the quantity and composition of the waste rock. Although in some cases the stripping ratios can be controlled (e.g., through consideration of underground versus open-pit mining technology), in most cases the constraints imposed by the geometry of the ore body will dominate. Nevertheless, metrics can be defined that provide meaningful measures of mine performance. As for the case of coal, above, the amount of energy needed per unit of metal extracted might be a good metric. In ore processing, more conventional metrics might be appropriate. For example, 3M currently uses a metric that is the ratio of the mass of waste to the combined mass of products, by-products, and waste. This single figure provides a simple measure not only of the degree to which waste can be reduced, but also the degree to which waste can be converted to by-products for recovery and sale. This type of metric also could be applied to the processing of ores. Regardless of the metric chosen, it must be easy to calculate based on data that can be readily obtained. Ideally, the metric should be a single index or number that can be used to establish goals and measure progress toward those goals. It must at least be suitable to the variations of the particular industry being measured and, ideally, comparable across industries. As discussed above, the nature of materials extraction constrains the application of life-cycle concepts. In addition, the remote locations of most resource deposits, combined with the low value of mining waste, limit the potential for selling waste products to other industries. Because the managers of extractive industries have limited control over the fate of their products, it might be more productive for them to think in terms of the life cycles of sites (e.g., mines or oil fields), rather than life cycles of products. Rather than dwell on the difficulties of applying all industrial-ecology approaches to extractive industries, the objective should be to apply design-for-environment principles to the mining and processing phases and to maintain or restore the other values of the site after the resource has been extracted.

OCR for page 13
Page 24 Cultural and Organizational Change Perhaps more so than other industries, mining is a global enterprise. Particularly for hard-rock mining, the marketplace for commodities is worldwide. Indeed, the prices of most metals are set on the world market. In addition, the prices of metals are subject to radical fluctuations. The need to maintain global competitiveness in this atmosphere requires that hard-rock mining companies adjust rapidly to these fluctuations and inhibits their ability to plan for the long term. As a result, some mining companies have suffered the consequences of short-term thinking. Even today, a few mining companies do not consider such basic needs as planning for ore depletion and ultimate mine closure. Hard-rock mining, and especially open-pit mining, necessarily defers the bulk of mine-closure expenses to the end of the mine's life. This involves establishing large bonds or other financial assurance mechanisms to ensure that adequate funds will be available (in light of volatile metal prices) to close the mine once the economically recoverable reserves are exhausted. Very large mining companies are able to absorb or weather the consequences of rapidly fluctuating commodities prices and are therefore able to plan for the long term. A diversity of properties and metals also enables large companies to deal with end-of-mine-life closure costs for open-pit operations. Consolidation of smaller mining companies into a few larger organizations appears inevitable for these reasons. When viewed as a closed system, the hard-rock mining industry has limited recycling opportunities (except, perhaps, in its ore-processing operations). However, when viewed in a larger context, recycling opportunities for metals are much greater. For example, as shown in Table 1, a much greater degree of recycling appears at least theoretically possible for a wide variety of metals (Allen and Behmanesh, 1994). Yet, as discussed earlier in this paper, recycling in some senses competes directly with extraction of virgin materials. The market costs of recycling are often much greater than the cost of producing virgin materials, and there can be significant direct and indirect adverse effects associated with recycling (e.g., excessive energy used to collect the dispersed materials, or pollution generated from burning insulation off copper wires). Until there is an economic incentive for society to prefer recycled materials over virgin materials, recycling will not be viable. There are several ways to provide incentives to recycle rather than produce virgin materials, but these incentives will have to be society driven rather than free-market driven. This is because society will have to absorb the increased costs associated with recycling. If the "external" costs of producing virgin materials, such as loss of usable land or other forms of environmental degradation, are somehow taken into account, the extractive industry will pass these costs on to the users of the commodities. In the global metals market, these external costs must be applied on a global basis. However, there is no commonly accepted

OCR for page 13
Page 25 TABLE 1 Metal Recycling   Percent Theoretically Percent Recycled  Metal Recoverable in 1986  Antimony 74-87 32  Arsenic 98-99 3  Barium 95-98 4  Beryllium 54-84 31  Cadmium 82-97 7  Chromium 68-89 8  Copper 85-92 10  Lead 84-95 56  Mercury 99 41  Nickel 100 0.1  Selenium 93-95 16  Silver 99-100 1  Thallium 97-99 1  Vanadium 74-98 1  Zinc 96-98 13 SOURCE: Allen and Behmanesh, 1994. system for estimating what these costs might be, let alone how such a system might be implemented. Similarly, the external costs of disposing of materials (e.g., contamination from land disposal and subsequent groundwater or surface-water contamination) might also be considered. Again, however, there is no commonly accepted method for calculating these costs or applying them globally. To add to the complexity, a balanced system of assessment must also take into account the external costs of recycling. To accomplish such a goal, collaboration between industry and government—not just nationally, but globally—will be essential. There is a trend toward full accounting of environmental costs, but this is not a simple matter in the extractive industries. There is no practical means of incorporating the consequences of exhausting finite global resources in the calculation of environmental costs. Yet, only by explicitly identifying potential environmental costs before projects begin can anticipated consequences be managed and designed for. The trend toward establishing comprehensive background environmental data will assist with post hoc efforts to distinguish impacts due to the extractive activities from those caused by natural environmental changes. Many of the difficulties faced by the extractive industries stem from inaccurate public perceptions of the industries' environmental performance and from misconceptions about the relative risks of various activities. These inaccurate perceptions are based mainly on historical practices and thus do not reflect recent improvements in the industries' environmental performance, and they represent a failure on the part of these industries to communicate effectively with various

OCR for page 13
Page 26 stakeholders. A variety of case studies demonstrate the benefit of direct, open communication. For example, as a result of extensive communication efforts, Statoil was given permission to build its Europipe for delivering oil from the North Sea to Germany under the Wadden Sea, a rich natural area that is both a German national park and a United Nations biosphere reserve (Grann, 1997). Long-term communication efforts should focus on educating representatives of government agencies and, especially, the public. Regulators, teachers, and members of the news media are particularly suitable leverage points for education efforts, the objective of which should be to improve literacy about environmental issues in general and about relative risks in the extractive industries in particular. Industry representatives will not be able to accomplish this task alone. Society as a whole will benefit most if, in addition to industry efforts, university practices and curricula are transformed. A better appreciation of the concepts of industrial ecology and the efforts of industries will depend on exposing students not to single disciplines, but to interdisciplinary studies sculpted by the nature of practical problems. Two stellar examples of innovative curricula are the earth systems course at Stanford University and the earth resources program at the University of California at Berkeley. The traditional adversarial relationship between industries and government regulators can inhibit improvement in environmental performance. Accumulating examples demonstrate the potential of government-industry cooperation, however. The development of the clean-coal technology program and the joint Amoco/ EPA study of Amoco's Yorktown, Virginia, refinery are two such efforts (Amoco and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1993). However, a shift toward more cooperation will require cultural change not only on the part of industry, but also on the part of Congress and the regulatory agencies. References Allen, D.T., and N. Behmanesh. 1994. Wastes as raw materials. Pp. 69-89 in The Greening of Industrial Ecosystems, B.R. Allenby and D.J. Richards, eds. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Amoco and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 1993. Amoco-U.S. EPA Pollution Prevention Project—Yorktown Virginia. Executive Summary. Washington, D.C.: EPA. Grann, H. 1997. Europipe development project: Managing a pipeline project in a complex and sensitive environment. Pp. 154-164 in The Industrial Green Game: Implications for Environmental Design and Management, D.J. Richards, ed. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Wilson, M. J. 1994. WZI, Inc. Personal communication. World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press.