In our rapidly evolving world, mining is becoming more critical than ever to keep up with the resource demands that enable electrification and clean energy resources. Ironically, mining companies greatly contribute to the very same carbon problem the world is collectively trying to mitigate during almost all of the exploration, extraction, and processing practices. It’s not just what we are mining, it’s how we are mining it that becomes critical in our stewardship of the planet. If we continue to mine smart to both produce sustainable resources, as well as implement our own sustainability practices, we’ll be on a solid path towards our collective decarbonization goals. But how do you do this?
Our team always says “you can’t manage what you don’t monitor”. In today’s mining environment, there are endless ways to use technology to monitor, manage and optimize the way mines operate in real-time. Today we’re going to look at how a digital strategy will enable you to master your own net zero goals by first addressing harmful gas outputs. Taking steps to mitigate emissions through proper ventilation management is more attainable than you think.
Types of gas emissions
To fully understand how to reduce harmful gas emissions most effectively, let’s first look at the main culprits. Some gasses carry higher consequences than others, whether they’re harmful to humans or to our earth’s atmosphere. The various types of emissions and their impact vary depending on the type of minerals being extracted, the methods used, and the geological conditions. The common thread is that they are all harmful, and they are all manageable. Some of the most common harmful gas emissions created by mining practices that can be mitigated with the right digital strategy include:
Carbon Dioxide released during various aspects of mining operations where fossil fuels are used, is generated diesel-powered machinery, transportation of materials, and energy consumption. Explosives and certain mineral extraction processes can release CO2. More often than not, diesel vehicle emissions are the biggest player, but indirect emissions from purchased electricity, heating, or cooling, in-bound/outbound transportation and supply chain can also play a part.
Sulfur Dioxide is emitted from mining copper, lead, and zinc ores. Emissions can lead to acid rain in extreme cases, and in common cases respiratory problems in humans.
Nitrogen Oxides are a result of blasting, diesel engines, and other combustion processes, causing both air pollution, respiratory issues, and environmental damage.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that often accompanies coal mining operations, as its trapped within coal seams to climate change due to its high heat-trapping potential.
Particulate Matter, whether they be solid particles or liquid droplets suspended in the air, are the result of drilling, blasting, crushing, and other mechanical processes, that pose a risk of respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
Volatile Organic Compounds released from drilling, blasting, and the use of certain chemicals and are tricky in nature because the pollution they create is not just their own doing – they can react with other pollutants to form problems such as ground-level ozone and smog.
Gas emissions vary widely depending on the ore being extracted and the specific operational processes. In our work, operations that work closely with us to assess and adopt a technology plan have become more energy-efficient as they seek to lower their overall output of harmful gas. Here are a few other peripherals:
Emissions can also result from waste management, especially in the case of tailings disposal and treatment. These emissions can include many of the harmful gasses listed above, most often CO2 and methane, depending on the decomposition processes.
Many mining companies are increasingly adopting sustainable practices to reduce their carbon footprint, including using renewable energy sources, improving efficiency, and employing advanced technologies. Emission levels can also be influenced by regional regulations and environmental policies that affect how mining operations manage their environmental impact.
Because of the wide variability in mining operations and the complexity of factors affecting emissions, our team takes a full 360-view of your mining operations outputs, as well as other studies and reporting from other operations, data provided by relevant mining associations, environmental agencies. Our step-by-step process empowers you to:
Monitor: With expert advisors in a very specific niche, you can implement technologies for gas detection that is driven by robust data
Manage: Through specific technology selection, you can move from monitoring to mitigation, driven by data analytics
Optimize: Processes and continuous improvement practices backed by actionable insights are the golden standard for advanced optimization and decarbonization practices
Utilizing the mine’s existing power and communications infrastructure, a good gas monitoring system, such as Conspec Controls, can deploy multi gas monitors in strategic locations within a mine. Over time, these monitors collect air quality related data in real time, and store all that data on a centralized server. Having both real-time and historical access to the data provides the mine with options on finding immediate value with real time actionable events, as well as using the historical data to find air quality related patterns to determine air quality related efficiencies.
One common use case for real-time air quality stations is the variable use of auxiliary fans. Much like a thermostat (requiring to run heating, once the ambient temperature drops below a set point), auxiliary fans really need to be run only during times of poor air quality. Once the air quality reaches an acceptable level, the fans can be turned off. This leads to a significant reduction in fan usage, which in turn leads to lower energy usage and lowered emissions. A good ventilation management and fan control system can drastically reduce the cost of electricity, by shutting down fans when there is no need for them to be circulating air.
Another use case for air quality monitoring is dust and particulate matter management in underground mines. When you connect your air quality monitoring system to particulate sensors, as soon as dust levels begin to approach impermissible limits, the system automatically activates dust suppression systems, such as water sprays or ventilation controls. The ability to mitigate the concentration of airborne particles allows your team can maintain proper air quality standards, reduce the risk of respiratory diseases among miners, and ensure compliance with environmental regulations, particularly concerning air quality emissions and worker health and safety.
Energy costs are amongst the highest controllable costs a mine has to manage. By automatically turning fans on and off based on need, the Ramjack Ventilation Management Solution is already saving mines millions of dollars each year in electricity, drastically reducing costs and energy resources. A trusted advisor can help you tap into the best decarbonization strategy through emission management. Our team can help you integrate your existing technology landscape to see where an air quality monitoring and management system could fit in with your overall operational strategy, to achieve best practices in sustainability, production, and ultimately success. If we remain committed to our own sustainability practices of mining clean, and mining smart, it will be a win-win for keeping the world supplied with the clean energy resources, while remaining true to our collective decarbonization goals.