Environmental impact assessment and the quest for sustainable mining
Taylor and Francis
School of Science
Mining has impacts which can interpreted as being unsustainable. This suggests that there are potential gains from appropriate investigation of the probable consequences of a proposed mining activity in advance of approval decisions, to enable more sustainable design and management. This ex ante role is played by Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): a decision support tool which is almost universally practised to anticipate and mitigate the effects of proposed developments with potentially significant impacts. This chapter explores the EIA and mining interface in the context of sustainable development in four ways. First, the EIA concept is introduced and its relationship with sustainable development is clarified. Second, the plural nature of sustainable development is clarified as it has consequences for the extent to which different stakeholders may view the sustainability of mining. Third, the case is made that mining is fundamentally sustainable, and evidence is presented of a long history of justification of this point. Fourth, best practice EIA principles are highlighted that should be integrated into any EIA associated with mine planning, implementation and closure to ensure optimum sustainability outcomes.