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New technologies aim to clean up mining

World Coal,

A cottage industry of companies aimed at helping the mining industry clean up is developing, according to a new report by Kachan Group.

“Mining companies have been criticised for poor environmental practices, but few people realise there’s a large and growing set of companies around the world developing new technologies to help make mining more efficient, better for the planet and safer for workers and local communities,” said Kachan associate, Kathy Chen, primary author of the report. “Innovative technology companies are finding market opportunities in addressing the common criticisms of mining.”

When environment and economics meet

According to the report, “Emerging Green Mining Innovation: Managing risk and profiting from new mining technology breakthroughs”, market volatility, rising costs, falling commodity prices, decreasing productivity, policy changes and social justice scrutiny are among the drivers of important new green innovation in mining technology.

“While requiring higher upfront capital expenditures, many of these new technologies reduce operation, closure and decommissioning and post-closure costs. Forward-thinking mining companies are incorporating some of these into operations and already realising value,” said Kachan managing partner, Dallas Kachan. “Mining companies can’t afford to continue using traditional processes if they want to continue operating competitively and in accordance with increasingly stringent regulations.”

Aside from their primary economic benefits, the report also found the green mining technologies can offer increased job satisfaction/HR value and mitigate social justice tensions. By reducing emissions and helping contain contaminants, they can also provide a safer working environment for miners. And these softer benefits of green mining technology also help contribute to mining companies’ returns, according to the report.

The recommendations made in the report include:

Mining companies should invest more in innovation

In 2012, investment in technology R&D by the mining industry was a mere 0.2% of revenue. Other industries invest as much as 30%. Ultimately, mining companies’ bottom lines are at risk, according to the report, which suggests companies boost their innovation-related spending significantly.

Policy makers should engage more with mining companies

Mining companies are beginning to adopt cleaner technologies to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. This aligns them with the goals of elected officials, many of which feel environmental pressure from constituents. Policymakers are encouraged in the report to use the opportunity to open up better dialogue with mining companies to explore ways to increase returns for their shareholders and make voters happy.

Governments should support green mining innovation

The report encourages policymakers to consider implementing tax credits to foster green mining, or mandates and standards similar to the US renewable portfolio or renewable fuel standards in the energy industries, and avoid instruments like loans or loan guarantees that would put policymakers in the position of having to play venture capitalist and pick technology winners.

Service providers should look in unexpected places for innovation

The report notes that new green mining technology innovation is often coming from smaller companies. While smaller companies are not always able to pay large professional services invoices, the best may become larger, successful companies that can pay large invoices, the report advises service providers.

Adapted from press release by Jonathan Rowland

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