Process Plants: the Social and Environmental Risks
Contributor: Mining IQ Editorial
Posted: 09/20/2011 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
Posted: 09/20/2011 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
As with all mining facilities, the process of designing, developing and constructing mineral process plants is a comprehensive task that requires thorough risk assessment and consideration of its social and environmental impact.
As part of the Minerals Processing Plant & Construction 2011 conference, Mining IQ interviewed Mark Reed, Senior Manager – Risk at AUSENCO. Reed explains that social and environmental risks need to be considered carefully in the initial design and location selection of the process plant.
Whilst environmental risks are standard considerations in process plant design, Reed believes that there is much more to this than the surface aspects people consider.
“Most people will immediately bring attention to discharges, storm water run-off, tailings dams etc. … [But] the social/ environmental aspect is really much more than [that] … It is important for both the owner and the engineering contractors to consider that the initial design creates a legacy for the owner that remains for the life of the mine,” said Reed.
The impacts Reed highlighted are ‘hard’ impacts which directly affect the habitat, fauna and flora of the plant’s surroundings. But there are also ‘soft’ impacts on the environment that need to be considered in process plant design.
“Risks that are critical here are noise, smell, dust and visual amenity. The impact of managing these ‘soft’ issues can have a huge effect on plant design. Let’s face it; having a mineral processing plant in your neighborhood is not the most desirable thing to happen,” explains Reed.
He says that in his experience, noise and smell pollution from process plants is the most difficult issue to handle and control. he recalls an example where noise pollution affected plant operations.
“One example I’ve worked on saw in-pit crushing as essential since it was the only realistic means of managing noise impacts on an existing community in a valley below the plant site,” said Reed.
Reed advises that early risk identification is vital to the establishment of the process plant. Failure to do so can be costly.
“The most important aspect of plant location establishment is to be thorough in risk identification at the Pre-feasibility stage. There is still time to make major changes to the design. What must be avoided at all costs is the matter of retro-fit solutions as these are very expensive and are only made in response to a problem that has been created,” said Reed.
He says that ultimately, a successful process plant plan must examine its future operations and consider how it will affect the surrounding population. He says it is paramount that companies look five or ten years into the future, understand the importance of forward planning and the management of local communities.
Mark Reed is a speaker at the Minerals Processing Plant Design & Construction 2011 to be held in Brisbane this October. For more information, please visit www.MineralProcessingPlant.com.au, call 02 9229 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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