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Don't Underestimate the Impact

Publication: Mining Review Africa
Issue: September 2016

It is widely understood today that the viability of a new mining operation—specifically in remote regions—is to a large extent dependent on supporting infrastructure, primarily access roads to site. Despite this, few companies take cognisance of the associated environmental impacts or take into account that such access corridors leave a lasting legacy well beyond a mine’s active lifespan, Knight Piésold environmental section manager Amelia Briel tells Laura Cornish.

"Mining is a temporary land use. Inevitably natural resources run out or the economic viability is depleted, leading to mine closure. If managed properly, a mine’s environmental footprint is actually negligible in relation to the larger impacts associated with its development, especially because it has become common practice to rehabilitate the mining area post closure. Unlike the mining activity
itself, logistics transport infrastructure established to support that mine is often permanent and outlives the mine,” Briel starts. Subsequently, its immediate and long-term impact on the environment and its inhabitants should be evaluated and properly managed.

But transport corridors are also easy targets for geopolitical risks which tend to override the softer issues of environmental and social sustainability. Nonetheless, these concerns are significant in their own right, Briel highlights.

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