Solid minerals and climate change
Sir: Climate change which often manifests in the form of extreme temperatures, increased or decreased precipitation, increased frequency and magnitude of storms and rising sea levels, poses a number of risks to the mining sector and could impact mining operations negatively. One impact of climate change may in turn trigger other impacts of climate change on mining. For example, decreased water availability leads to reduced precipitation which has a major impact on hydro-electricity generation that is a major source of energy for mining companies.
Runoff which is the flow of excess water over saturated land in dry or water stressed areas will affect mining. Some mining operations require relatively large amounts of high quality water. A direct implication of increased water stress is that such mining operations will not have access to sufficient supply of high quality water.
Climate change also has business and financial consequences on mining companies. At construction and operation stages, there are financial risks from increased capital and operating expenses to secure new sources of water for expansion of existing operations in water-stressed areas. The level of investment in desalination plants, pumping and transportation infrastructure can have negative effects on the financial capacity of the mining company. Sourcing water from longer distances increases operating costs. There are also secondary financial risks from the possibility of reduced reliability in electricity supplied.
Mining companies may incur higher costs from having to rely on back-up generators. Hydroelectric power production facilities are susceptible to water supply fluctuation issues. The shortfall in resources of the mining company may affect its relationship with the host community in terms of its ability to effectively carry out corporate social responsibility.
The inability of the mining company to significantly contribute to the health, educational and general well being of the host community may lead to workforce availability issues and increased bad blood between the host community and the mining company which may in the long run affect the company’s social licence to operate.
Climate change also negatively affects the transportation supply chains of mining companies especially if the transportation supply chain infrastructure is located in coastal areas and regions susceptible to inland flooding.
The government over the years has worked hard to ensure sustainable development of Nigeria’s minerals resources sector with the promulgation of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007; the Nigerian Mineral and Metals Policy 2008; the Roadmap for the Development of Solid Minerals and Metals Sector 2012 and ‘On the Road to Shared Mining Prosperity: Roadmap for the Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Industry (2016)’.
However, there exist low hanging fruits that the solid minerals sector can adopt to mine these minerals for economic development without predisposing the environment to climate change. Maintaining healthy vegetation around mines sites is one such low hanging fruit. This helps to stabilise the ground as it reduces percolation of water and prevent erosion by water. Mine sites could be screened, landscaped and beautified to improve their aesthetic values. This is more effective if the vegetation cover is predominantly trees with very long life span.
Martins Eke, Abuja.
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