SUSTAINABLE MINERAL RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT - TIME FOR ACTION
Geoscientists have a central role to play in developing such solutions. Exploration geologists are involved at the outset, most obviously in searching for high quality ores, but also because the impressions that they make on local communities and on the environments in which they explore will set the tone for future negotiations for the right to mine. Before the explorationist hits the ground, however, exploration managers can help direct the search to regions of low environmental sensitivity, and away from deposit types of high environmental impact. In the latter category, high-sulfide ores are obvious problems both during (smelting) and after mining (acid rock drainage), while the mining of large low-grade deposits leaves legacies of massive land disturbance and waste. Geological research can contribute to this decision-making process by advancing our understanding of ore-forming processes and deposit types, thereby enabling more focused search for low-impact, high-value orebodies. Examples are certain types of skarn and pegmatite deposits, where almost all mined materials can be utilized (total resource utilization).
More broadly, however, geoscientists must become actively engaged as experts informing dialogue and decision-making across the full range of economic, social, and environmental issues affected by mining.