Mining processes, including exploration drilling, can become environmentally sustainable by creating and integrating exercises that minimise the environmental impact of these operations. These practices include measures like energy and water consumption, reducing land disturbance, preventing pollution and reducing waste production.
There are a number of definitions, but generally, sustainable development is any type of development that meets the current needs, without compromising the ability of future civilisation to fulfil its own needs.
Environmentally Sustainable Exploration Drilling
The continued discovery of new oil, mineral reserves, coal, improved recycling and major advancements in technology today has reduced the fears of depleting non-renewable resources. However, even though this mining process may occur in a relatively small area, the associated infrastructure and pollution from these activities have the potential to affect ecosystems health and the ability to provide the goods and services essential for environmental and human well-being. Examples of these services are water and air purification and waste materials decomposition. These can all be compromised in areas where the ecosystems are overwhelmed by high pollution levels.
So, in order to be environmentally sustainable, exploration drilling companies have to conduct these processes in a fashion that minimises their impact on the environment and leaves the sites in an acceptable condition for reuse by ecosystems or people. There are a number of management strategies and technologies being developed and employed by the mining industry to minimise the environmental impacts of these process. These include:
1. Reducing Energy Input
Exploration drilling can be a very energy intensive process. For instance, diesel is used by excavators and trucks during drilling. Even though this process is essential for finding geothermal reservoirs that have the potential to produce sufficient hydrothermal fluids for generating power, it still requires a lot of power to pull off. The extraction of fossil fuels as well as the construction of infrastructure needed for energy generation if the project successful have substantial environmental impacts. That includes increased risk of environmental contamination as well as the production of greenhouse gases.
Therefore, reducing the energy consumption at these sites reduces the gas emissions and extends the life of fossil fuels.
2. Reducing Waste Outputs
Exploration drilling wastes include mine water, solid waste and air particles. These can vary substantially in their composition and potential of contaminating the surroundings. In addition to preventing water, air and soil pollution, waste management strategies are needed in order to choose and create ideal storage facilities for the massive volumes of waste produced.
Generally, preventing pollution is considered to be more effective and economical at reducing environmental impact compared to dealing with it later. Some of the methods of reducing and eliminating waste during the exploration and production stages of mining include:
-Environmental control technologies
-Using clean production methods
-Using waste as raw material
-Minimising the amount of waste through re-engineering
Waste management techniques are also used to reduce the amount of wastewater produced and even treat it into desirable quality before it’s released.
Also, over the past several decades, most countries have passed environmental legislation stating acceptable standards of our impacts to water, land and air. As such, waste management strategies are increasingly needed in order to obtain an exploration drilling or mining permit in most parts of the world.