Funny how conference presentations are replete with references to sustainability. The talkers all use the term. Yet they all shrug in quiet embarrassment at using the term. It is not hard to fathom why. Everybody you talk to jokes about the concept.
Yet there must be something to the idea, it is bandied about so often. On the basis of what I heard today at SME, it is probably because the industry lacks a decent term to cover all the things they know they should do to be able to continue mining with a clear conscience.
This afternoon, I attended the sessions on Construction Materials & Aggregates: Urban Mining. R. Budinger of Fairmount Industrial Minerals shrugged off the term sustainable mining as meaning no more and no less than DO THE RIGHT THING. Certainly his operation does the right thing. It is almost enough to make you believe in sustainable mining. Maybe the lesson learnt is that if the mining industry wants to see sustainable mining in action, they should go to the midwest and see what folk do there to open and operate quarries close to towns and farms.
After the session I chatted with Dirk Van Zyl who said that the attitude of the mineral mining industry to sustainable mining is not to bother to define it, but simply to do it. And the reason they must do it is because they are close to urban areas and educated populations who can take them to task if they do not.
Does that approach then reduce the complexities of the concept of sustainable mining to no more than a western concept concocted to justify imposing mining and its benefits on third world indigenous populations who really do not have the means wherewithal to effectively oppose mines developed by the civilized?
Certainly there is a seeming vast gap between practice in the US when the mining-affected are other American as compared to say Peru or Brazil or any of those far away places where an upper class effectively imposes their will on a lower class.
Maybe the concepts and tenants of third world sustainability are just a form of terminology like apartheid that those who benefit use to proceed. To prove me wrong it will be necessary to see mining in third world countries done as sensitively as is done by quarries in Iowa and Wisconsin.