Although optimising cash flow throughout the entire mining value chain in Africa’s current capital-constrained mining industry is important, business optimisation firm Whittle Consulting believes that a holistic approach, with a definite focus on sustainability should be adopted on the continent so that it can achieve an increased level of sustainable development through its resource projects.
Whittle Consulting offers the Green Line Mining concept of sustainable development as a means to achieve this, which the company believes is overdue in the mining industry, says Whittle Consulting partner Mark Jones.
Green Line Mining focuses on yielding the highest net present value (NPV) for a project, but also assesses and addresses the impact of the mining operation on the environment.
Not only does this concept provide a holis-tic and sustainable economic plan for a min- ing operation but it also includes several sus- tainability-orientated innovation services and technologies that are fundamental in improving the productivity and sustainability of a mine.
These services and technologies include technology-based consulting, laboratory services and software, as well as specialist equipment and professional development, and are provided through a partnership that was formed between Whittle Consulting and mining solutions provider JKTech, which is the technology transfer company for the University of Queensland.
Jones points out that a mining operation’s life-of-mine (LoM) is usually established in a fragmented way within each of the silos of geology, mining, processing and marketing, and does not form an integrated whole.
LoM planning is currently characterised by confused objectives, basic techniques, performing only pit optimisation, using standalone tools, exploring only a few alternatives or scenarios, completing little risk and uncertainty analyses and incorporating little or no geometallurgical inputs into the LoM plan.”
Green Line Mining enables mining companies to make a step change in their economic perfor- mance by developing long-term plans with significantly better cash flow profiles, increasing their net present value by 5% to 35%, or consid-erably more, says Jones.
Meanwhile, a mining operation needs to over-come several societal constraints, which include quantitative and qualitative elements that exist during the planning of a mine, to ensure sus-tainable operations.
The quantitative elements include carbon footprint, land use, taxes, royalties and employ-ment, while the qualitative variables include social, natural, human, manufactured and finance capital. Both these elements have to be improved in a way that benefits the community, the society and the company involved in the project.
Jones illustrates that, for example, mineral projects assist in reducing the inequality of com-munities across Africa by converting natural capital into social, economic and human capital.
Other challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a sustainable mining industry in Africa include the failure to address uncertainties pertaining to the orebody and the market, as well as the type and capacity of mining and pro- cessing, which impact on the environment, local communities, political stability and long-term horizons.
If these factors are not undertaken in an integrated and holistic way, the mining project will be less sustainable or even unsustainable and destroy the five capitals rather than enhance or improve them.
Currently, considerations of sustainability tend to be regarded as a compliance and reporting task, or risk to be mitigated, rather than an opportunity for community and stakeholder engagement.
Jones says it is crucial to look beyond the regu-latory and compliance activities and develop a holistic approach that includes a range of sustainability indicators to assist the stakeholders in reaching a better understanding of the risks and opportunities involved and how these can and are being achieved or managed.