Is sustainable mining achievable? Can environmental engineering help get us there?
Extraction and processing of fuel and non-fuel minerals from the Earth has a plethora of impacts on land, water, air and ecosystems. Reduction and remediation of these impacts long has engaged environmental engineers in research and practice. Application of sustainability principles to mining is inherently challenging, considering the impacts involved and that mining involves removal of finite resources. However, as demand continues for fuel minerals such as coal and non-fuel minerals such as metals, consideration of environmental sustainability is increasingly being incorporated into development and operation of mines.
This talk will examine the environmental sustainability profiles of fuel and non-fuel mineral mining, and efforts that have been undertaken over the past 30 years to improve these profiles. The talk will focus on coal and copper mining in the U.S. as important examples of fuel- and non-fuel mineral mining. Current and evolving mining industry practices and related environmental engineering activities will be reviewed. Approaches for assessing the environmental sustainability of mining operations will be presented and applied to the two cases, with consideration of scale from operations at individual sites to system level.
The meaning of sustainable mining will be explored, as will the potential to achieve sustainable mining for fuel and non-fuel minerals. A framework for assessment of sustainability in mining that includes life-cycle metrics will be put forward. Application of the framework to copper will be presented as an example. The role of environmental engineers in advancing the environmental sustainability of mining will be examined with the audience.
About the Speaker
David Dzombak is the Hamerschlag University Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. The emphasis of his research and teaching is on water quality engineering, water resource sustainability, and energy-environment issues. At Carnegie Mellon he also has served as Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs for the College of Engineering (2006-2010), as Director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (2007-2013), and as Interim Vice Provost of Sponsored Programs (November 2012-August 2013).
Dzombak received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986. He also holds an M.S. in Civil Engineering (1981) and a B.S. in Civil Engineering (1980) from Carnegie Mellon, and a B.A. in Mathematics from Saint Vincent College (1980). He is a registered Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania, a Board Certified Environmental Engineer, a Diplomate Water Resources Engineer, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.