The role of FM in minimising waste in mining

South Africa – Research company Technavio, in its most recent Global Mining Waste Management Report, revealed that the global mining waste market is expected to grow from the 68.76 million tons generated in 2017 to nearly 87 million tons by 2022, with 10% to 13% of the overall market contributed by South Africa. In simple […]

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South Africa – Research company Technavio, in its most recent Global Mining Waste Management Report, revealed that the global mining waste market is expected to grow from the 68.76 million tons generated in 2017 to nearly 87 million tons by 2022, with 10% to 13% of the overall market contributed by South Africa. In simple terms, the country can expect its mining waste to grow by about 2.36 million tons from the estimated 8.9 million tons it produced in 2017 to about 11.3 million tons by 2022.

While the mining industry is susceptible to a number of complex challenges, among them access to energy, the high cost of energy, and recently its scarcity, depletion of resources, health and safety, commercial viability of mining projects, security, volatility of commodity prices and its environmental footprint, equally, mining has adverse effects on people and the environment.

The role of facilities management in mining

The Facilities Management (FM) sector has a unique role to play in efforts aimed at minimising inefficiencies in mining operations, as the sector can contribute extensively towards Infrastructure Development, Asset Management, Business Support Services. Efforts should be made by the FM service providers to develop and implement strategies that support mining in mitigating the dire impact of mining activities on, support efforts to restore environmental sustainability and implement initiatives that are aimed at improving employee wellness, health and safety. All stakeholders in the mining value chain have a role to play in efforts aimed at addressing environmental and socio-economic impact within the mining ecosystem.

FM companies can help minimise several environmental hazards in the mining sector, namely radioactive materials contamination (from density gauges and mineral analysis equipment), wet waste (chemicals, leachate, effluent etc.), gas emissions, glass and manufacturing waste.
With increased focus on developing a sustainable mining culture and the need to transition to a low-carbon future through progressive minerals processing methods, the mining sector can see sustained growth if all within the mining ecosystem, whether it be earth-moving, cleaning, catering or waste management companies, can embrace environmentally responsible practices.
FM companies have an obligation to adopt a zero-waste-to-landfill culture in their waste management initiatives or enforce it on its partners if that’s an outsourced service. They also have an ethical responsibility to train and develop an environmentally responsible workforce.
While unhealthy tension persists around outsourcing in the labour market, precipitated by conflicting objectives between employers and organised labour, specialist service providers possess critical skills required to identify common objectives and uniquely harmonise the otherwise divergent needs. This is the core competence of any competent FM company.
Servest currently employs in excess of 200 colleagues in the mining sector in South Africa, providing maintenance, waste management, cleaning, hygiene, pest control, landscaping, turf, catering, camp management, office plants, water, business support services, parking solutions and technical services. Our contribution to environmental sustainability is demonstrated by our initiatives in energy efficiency and water management in all the facilities we operate. We have long established that the use of environmentally friendly chemicals, especially in our cleaning and hygiene divisions, along with environmentally friendly consumables in catering and camp management can go a long way in reversing adverse effects on global climate change.
There is a need for organised labour to soften their attitudes towards outsourcing, and for them to acknowledge that outsourcing of non-core activities is a growth imperative that seeks to secure sustainable job opportunities. Outsourcing companies too, are people businesses who rely on human capital drawn from the labour market to support mining companies in addressing their pain points.

While it is undeniable that metals and minerals are vital to the infrastructure and technological advancement needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it is imperative that these natural resources are extracted and used responsibly to improve the human condition. Strategic partnerships with competent FM providers who have an appreciation for legislative framework that guides the industry operations, the safety & environmental requirements to preserve and prolong life, the technical competence and organizational capacity to discharge their duties and the business acumen to stimulate economic growth.

Facilities Management service providers are obligated to provide detailed reports of their waste management activities in respect of volumes and waste streams, and to ensure that they play their part in advancing efforts aimed at zero waste. Comprehensive and accurate reporting of the economic, environmental and social impact of waste management solutions at Clients’ facilities provides assurances and the ability to quantify the extent to which they achieve their triple bottom line objectives as well as legislative and compliance obligations.

We must, collectively as FM companies and support services providers to the mining sector, explore how we can limit the usage of fossil fuel energy sources in energy-intensive processes, and adopt progressive energy generation methods such as carbon-neutral energy sources and co-generation.

Our view is that embracing digital transformation in the local mining industry will play a huge role in mitigating effects of global climate change. In fact, the Technavio Report predicts that between 2018 and 2022, underground mine sealing technologies are projected to develop and promote acid mine drainage treatment in closed underground mining facilities. Thus the need for technological and process advances will fuel the growth of the global mining waste management market.

Why mining matters

A report by the Institute of Race Relations released in March 2019 takes a critical look at the local mining sector, its struggles in the recent years, its significant direct contribution to the GDP and how it can be revitalised. South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 3,1% in the second quarter of 2019. The mining and quarrying industry increased by 14,4% and contributed 1,0 percentage points to GDP growth. Increased production was reported for mining of iron ore, manganese ore, coal and ‘other’ metal ores including platinum.

Mining remains a critical industry with enormous influence on the economy, and crucial to ensuring the growth of economies and communities. So it should remain everyone’s vested interest to contribute in whatever form possible to ensure that the industry grows and does so in a sustainable manner.

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