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The Environmental sustainability of mining in Australia: key mega-trends

and looming constraints


Gavin M. Mudd
a,b,n
a
Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia
b
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 5 August 2009
Received in revised form
17 December 2009
Accepted 17 December 2009
JEL classication:
Q300
L720
Q560
Keywords:
Sustainable mining
Mineral resources
Resource intensity
Greenhouse emissions
Climate change
Environmental impacts
Life cycle analysis
Australia
a b s t r a c t
At rst sustainable mining could be perceived as a paradoxminerals are widely held to be nite
resources with rising consumption causing pressure on known resources. The true sustainability of
mineral resources, however, is a much more complex picture and involves exploration, technology,
economics, social and environmental issues, and advancing scientic knowledgepredicting future
sustainability is therefore not a simple task. This paper presents the results from a landmark study on
historical trends in Australian mining, including ore milled, ore grades, open cut versus underground
mining, overburden/waste rock and economic resources. When complete data sets are compiled for
specic metals, particular issues stand out with respect to sustainabilitytechnological breakthroughs
(e.g. otation, carbon-in-pulp), new discoveries (e.g. uranium or U), price changes (e.g. Au, boom/bust
cycles), social issues (e.g. strikes), etc. All of these issues are of prime importance in moving towards a
semi-quantitative sustainability model of mineral resources and the mining industry. For the future,
critical issues will continue to be declining ore grades (also ore quality and impurities), increased waste
rock and associated liabilities, known economic resources, potential breakthrough technologies, and
broader environmental constraints (e.g. carbon costs, water). For this latter area, many companies now
report annually on sustainability performancefacilitating analysis of environmental sustainability
with respect to production performance. By linking these two commonly disparate aspectsmining
production and environmental/sustainability datait becomes possible to better understand environ-
mental sustainability and predict future constraints such as water requirements, greenhouse emissions,
energy and reagent inputs, and the like. This paper will therefore present a range of fundamental data
and issues which help towards quantifying the resource and environmental sustainability of
miningwith critical implications for the mining industry and society as a whole.
& 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Introduction
The phrase sustainable mining appears, at rst glance, to be
a simple oxymoronan apparent paradox. After all, numerous
famous mines have long since closed due to a nite quantity of
ore able to be economically (or technologically) mined and
processed at that given period of history. Yet in reality there are
mines in operation today that dwarf the productive output of
previous generations of minesan evident paradox.
Mineral resources are widely interpreted to be nite with
respect to sustainable development, since metals and minerals are
non-renewable (at least in human or biological time scales). The
most recognised study for this view is perhaps the 1972 Club of
Rome analysis Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972), which
included a systems dynamic model called World3 designed to
qualitatively model the interaction of global population, social
issues, environmental impacts, mineral and energy resources and
the economy (including the recent 30-year update; Meadows
et al., 2004). It must be pointed out that one of the major
contributors to global collapse by around 2050 in the World3
model was the extent of nite resources, though even if resources
were doubled this merely delayed the timing of collapse. In
response, some have argued in response that economic mineral
resources are not a stationary, solitary gure, but rather a function
of prevailing economic, technological, social and environmental
constraints (e.g. Hancock, 1993; IIED and WBCSD, 2002; Tilton,
2003).
In recent years there has been a renewed public debate about
mining and its sustainability, due to strong public sentiment on
environmental and social issues surrounding the mining industry
in Australia and globally. The past decade in particular has seen an
increasingly focused debate on the need to shift modern mining to
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Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/resourpol
Resources Policy
0301-4207/$ - see front matter & 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.resourpol.2009.12.001
n
Corresponding author at: Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil
Engineering, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia.
Tel.: +61 3 9905 1352; fax: +61 3 9905 4944
E-mail address: Gavin.Mudd@eng.monash.edu.au
Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115
ARTICLE IN PRESS
a more sustainable framework, with many mining companies
now reporting annually on their sustainability performance
alongside nancial results. The approach to describing what is
sustainable mining varies considerably, largely dependent on
whether the view is from industry, government or civil society
groups. A common approach in all views is that there should be
ongoing availability of resources and a productive environment
and healthy community at both current and former mining sites
(Cowell et al., 1999; Gordon et al., 2006).
In the build-up towards the 2002 Johannesburg Earth Summit
(the Rio+10 follow-up), nine of the largest mining and metal
companies established the Global Mining Initiative to examine
mining, sustainability and the performance of the industry. In
2000, they launched the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable
Development (MMSD) project. While the principal report, called
Breaking New Ground (IIED and WBCSD, 2002), was released in
2002 for the Johannesburg Summit, the MMSD project also
produced various regional reports and associated studies. The
MMSD project articulated a pivotal change in approaching
sustainability with a move away from arguing individual mines
may be sustainable, to the sector as a whole contributing to
sustainable development. The emphasis on contributing to
sustainable development allows broader consideration of a
balance of social, economic and environmental facets for the
industry as whole. Thus it is the sum of all individual mines over
time and space and their respective resources, impacts and
benets which should be considered in ascribing sustainability to
mining. While individual mine performance remains crucial, a
focus on the sector as a whole is necessary to examine
sustainability in a thorough way.
It is also important to recognise that constraints on new mines
may be social (e.g. cost, availability of skilled labour; (Garcia et al.,
2001), as well as the capacity of host communities), political (e.g.
iron ore export bans in the 1930s), technical (e.g. forty year delay
in development of the McArthur River leadzinc project; high
arsenic levels in ore at the former Armstrong nickel mine),
economic (markets, supply/demand), and/or environmental in
nature (e.g. delay of uranium projects; exclusion of mining in
national parks) (see Mudd, 2009a). In Australia this recognition of
the broader context of economic mineral resources is embedded
into the statutory Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) code for
reporting economic resources (AusIMM et al., 2004; Stephenson,
2001).
The continuing debate on incorporating sustainable develop-
ment into the mining industry, however, does not include
systematic, long-term data on mining. Data for aspects such as
economic resources, ore grades, solid waste burden (tailings
and waste rock) and inputs and outputs, are fundamental
evidence in any assessment or quantication of the environ-
mental sustainability of mining. Many of these historical trends
have recently been compiled for the Australian mining industry
(Mudd, 2009a).
Since many companies now publish annual sustainability
reports, it is possible to link long-term trends in mining to key
environmental aspects such as water and energy consumption,
solid wastes, chemical inputs, greenhouse gas emissions and
other pollutants. Collectively, these aspects are broadly referred to
as resource intensity. Access to these data are critical for cleaner
production and holistic life cycle analyses, both of which are
foundation tools for sustainability assessments (e.g. Norgate and
Rankin, 2002; Stewart and Petrie, 2006).
The most popular sustainability reporting protocol is the
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)a coalition of the United
Nations, industry, government and civil society groups (GRI,
2006). The GRI aims to achieve uniform and consistent reporting
on sustainability performance, making it as routine and compar-
able as nancial reporting. A mining sector supplement aims to
facilitate improved reporting for the mining industry (a nal
consultation draft was released in early 2009; GRI, 2009). Under
the GRI, information is reported on a range of core and voluntary
indicators covering spectrum social, economic and environmental
aspects. A detailed analysis of GRI-based reporting and the mining
industry is given by Mudd (2009b).
Understanding and predicting the environmental sustainabil-
ity challenges associated with mining requires knowledge of
historical production trends as well as the relationship between
production and resource intensity. These relationships can then
be used in the sustainability debate which surrounds mining,
including scenario development or forecasting/backcasting stu-
dies. Although social and economic issues are obviously impor-
tant in understanding the sustainability of any industry, this
paper will focus on the principal mega-trends and aspects of the
Australian mining industry with respect to environmental
sustainability. Comments on social or economic aspects are made
where possible.
This paper quanties the principal trends of Australian mining
and places these within the context of the current debate on
sustainable mining. A discussion of the key Australian mega-
trends and the merits of different perspectives is then presented,
leading to recommendations for improved sustainability report-
ing to allow a better understanding and quantication of
environmentally sustainable mining.
Methodology
This paper summarises the results from a more detailed study
(Mudd, 2009a) combined with research on resource intensity. In
brief, the study was centred around the collection of a range of
data sources to compile master data sets on key trends in the
Australian mining industry. The principal references used were
government and industry periodicals, company annual reports,
technical reports, scientic monographs and other literature. Full
details, data sets and references are given in Mudd (2009a). The
following annual series are presented:
contained mineral/metal production from mining over time;
ore grade for select minerals/metals;
proportion of ore mined by open cut mines;
waste rock (or overburden) mined;
economic mineral resources over time, including average
resource ore grade.
Further to mineral production trends, this paper also presents
data for the resource intensity of new mineral/metal production.
Resource intensity data are adopted from sustainability reports
and combined with mine production data. The two case study
metals analysed are gold and uranium, summarised from Mudd
(2007b) and Mudd and Diesendorf (2008):
energy costs per unit mineral production, with respect to ore
grade and ore throughput;
water costs per unit mineral production, with respect to ore
grade and ore throughput;
greenhouse costs per unit mineral production, with respect to
ore grade and ore throughput;
cyanide costs per unit mineral production, with respect to ore
grade (gold only).
The resource intensity includes data from gold and uranium
mines all over the world, with the data sets recently being
updated as well as being analysed for aspects such as mine type
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 99
ARTICLE IN PRESS
and energyelectricity sources. Additional recent uranium data is
also obtained from Nilsson and Randheim (2008). The gold data
comprises 43.9% from Australia while for uranium it is 60.9%
Australian. The global data are included since they form a more
holistic view of the issues and variability, and are representative
of existing and potential mines in Australia. Such global data sets
0
200
400
600
800
1,000
1845
A
n
n
u
a
l

C
o
p
p
e
r

&

N
i
c
k
e
l

P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
Copper (kt Cu)
Nickel (kt Ni)
Cu
Ni
0
40
80
120
160
200
240
280
320
A
n
n
u
a
l

G
o
l
d

&

D
i
a
m
o
n
d
s

P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
Gold (t Au)
Diamonds (Mcarats)
Gold
D
i
a
m
o
n
d
s
0
500
1,000
1,500
2,000
2,500
A
n
n
u
a
l

L
e
a
d
-
Z
i
n
c
-
S
i
l
v
e
r

P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
Zinc (kt Zn)
Lead (kt Pb)
Silver (t Ag)
Ag
Pb
Zn
0
70
140
210
280
350
A
n
n
u
a
l

I
r
o
n

O
r
e
,

B
a
u
x
i
t
e

&

M
a
n
g
a
n
e
s
e

P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
Iron Ore (Mt)
Bauxite (Mt)
Manganese (0.1 Mt concentrate)
Iron Ore
Bauxite
Manganese
0
3
6
9
12
15
A
n
n
u
a
l

T
i
n

&

U
r
a
n
i
u
m

P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
Tin (kt Sn)
Uranium (kt U
3
O
8
)
Tin
U
r
a
n
i
u
m
0
500
1,000
1,500
2,000
2,500
A
n
n
u
a
l

M
i
n
e
r
a
l

S
a
n
d
s

P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
Rutile (kt concentrate)
Synthetic Rutile (kt)
Zircon (kt)
Ilmenite (kt concentrate)
Ilmenite
Rutile
S
y
n
t
h
e
t
i
c
R
u
t
i
l
e
Zircon
1865 1885 1905 1925 1945 1965 1985 2005
1845 1865 1885 1905 1925 1945 1965 1985 2005
1845 1865 1885 1905 1925 1945 1965 1985 2005 1845 1865 1885 1905 1925 1945 1965 1985 2005
1845 1865 1885 1905 1925 1945 1965 1985 2005
1845 1865 1885 1905 1925 1945 1965 1985 2005
Fig. 1. Historical mineral production in Australia.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 100
ARTICLE IN PRESS
also emphasize the global nature of these issues facing the mining
industry.
Results: key mining mega-trends
Mineral production over time is shown in Fig. 1, with black and
brown coal shown in Fig. 2. Total mineral production by state and
Australia is summarised in Table 1. Some states dominate in
certain minerals, while several minerals are widely spread in their
production between states. The production over time is often
explained by seminal discoveries in Australian miningsuch as
Burra, Moonta-Wallaroo, Bendigo-Ballarat (and later Kalgoorlie),
Mount Bischoff, Mount Morgan, Broken Hill, Mount Lyell, Mount
Isa, Groote Eylandt, Kambalda, the Pilbara, Weipa-Gove-Darling
Ranges, Olympic Dam, Argyle and so on. Other changes in
production are related to apparent eld exhaustion (e.g. alluvial
tin), varying economic conditions (e.g. copper, gold), government
policy (e.g. iron ore), social issues (e.g. the great 18-month union
strike at Broken Hill over 1919-20) or new technology (e.g. gold).
More comprehensive historical accounts of each mineral or metal
are given in Mudd (2009a).
The available data compiled for ore grades are shown in Fig. 3.
In general, the underlying data sets cover more than 80% of mine
production for the period presented, with some metals being
100% of reported total Australian production. As with
production, ore grade trends help to explain the long-term
evolution in Australian metal mining. For copper, initial mines
of the 1840s50s were in shallow high grade oxidised ores but
these were quickly exhausted and by the 1880s the copper sector
was moving rapidly to treat and smelt more extensive but lower
grade sulde ores. Throughout the twentieth century, the rise and
fall of the average copper ore grade is related to the changing
mines and their open cut/underground conguration (e.g. Mount
Lyell and Mount Morgan), and the development of new mines
(especially Mount Isa). Similarly, Broken Hill dominated the
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
1826
A
n
n
u
a
l

B
l
a
c
k

C
o
a
l

P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n

(
r
a
w
)

&

E
x
p
o
r
t
s

(
M
t
)
0
200
400
600
800
1,000
1,200
1,400
1,600
1,800
M
i
n
i
m
u
m

O
v
e
r
b
u
r
d
e
n

(
M
m
3
)
Black Coal (raw) Black Coal Exports
Brown Coal Overburden
Black Coal
(raw)
Brown
Coal
Black Coal
Exports
Overburden (Mm
3
)
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
1920
O
v
e
r
b
u
r
d
e
n
:
C
o
a
l

(
R
a
w
)

R
a
t
i
o

(
m
3
:
t
)
Queensland New South Wales
Tasmania Western Australia
South Australia Victoria
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
1915
P
r
o
p
o
r
t
i
o
n

D
e
r
i
v
e
d

b
y

O
p
e
n

C
u
t

M
i
n
e
s

(
%
)
Black
Coal
(only)
Black &
Brown Coal
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
1960
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

C
o
a
l

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

(
G
t
)
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s
-
t
o
-
P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n

(
Y
e
a
r
s
)
Economic Coal Resources (Gt)
Resources-to-Production Ratio (Years)
1841 1856 1871 1886 1901 1916 1931 1946 1961 1976 1991 2006
1925 1935 1945 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
Fig. 2. Historical black and brown coal and minimum overburden production in Australia including verburden: coal ratios (inset) (top); extent of open cut production
(bottom left); economic resources and remaining years (bottom right).
Note: the extent of overburden from 1943 to 1977 is very small, given the lower production, extent of open cut mining and OB:coal ratios.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 101
ARTICLE IN PRESS
leadzincsilver sector until Mount Isa began life, with much of
the early ore being oxidised ores followed by a major shift to
sulde ores within a decade. The long-term trend for gold ore
grade is a combined reection of exploration, demand and the
emergence of new technology (cyanide and its generations of
processing technology, especially carbon-in-pulp or CIP). Over the
past decade, the drop in nickel ore grade is due to the introduction
of both large-scale low-grade sulde mines as well as low-grade
laterite mines.
The available data compiled for open cut mining, based on the
proportion of ore, are shown in Fig. 4. In general, there is only
minor difference between the proportion of open cut mining
calculated from either the ore or mineral (uranium being the
exception). For most minerals shown, there is a general trend
towards increasing open cut mining. Many minerals are not
shown as they have always been extracted by open cut mining
(e.g. bauxite, diamonds, iron ore, manganese, mineral sands). For
copper, the rise and fall and re-rise of open cut mining is due to
the changing open cut/underground mine congurations at
Mount Lyell and Mount Morgan, the start of Mount Isa, and the
development of major open cut mines in the past decade (e.g.
Ernest Henry, Cadia, Nifty). Similarly for uranium, the switch from
open cut to underground mining is due to the sheer scale of
Olympic Dam. A critical mineral to note is black coal, which has
moved from complete underground mining to 80% open cut
mining over the same period which has seen exponential growth
in coal mining and exports (including brown coal brings this shift
forward by about two decades).
The available data compiled for waste rock, primarily from
open cut mining, are shown in Fig. 5. The changes over time are
related to the start and nish of major open cut mines (e.g.
copperMount Lyell, Mount Morgan; diamondsArgyle; 1980s
gold boom), but just as critical is the rapid evolution in bulk earth
moving technology and scale since about 1950. For example, the
development of ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) explosives
technology in the 1960s was also critical for the continuing
expansion of open cut mining, due to ANFOs cost and safety
advantages (Mudd, 2009a). Over time it can be seen that for most
minerals there is a major shift to open cut mining, as it commonly
allows for more complete and economic extraction of contained
minerals.
Associated with this move to open cut mining is the ratio of
waste rock to the ore mined, included as an inset in Fig. 5 (black
and brown coal was included in Fig. 2). For most minerals, there is
a gradually rising ratio over time (e.g. black coal, gold, copper)
while for some it is relatively stable (e.g. brown coal). Note that
the data presented in Fig. 5 are a minimum only, since many
companies do not report waste rock. For the data compiled, no
year represents all waste rock due to gaps from numerous open
cut mines, while data from underground mines are extremely rare
(thereby excluding the comparison of open cut/underground
waste rock-ore ratios).
The available data for economic mineral resources over time
are shown in Fig. 6. In general, changes over time are related to
the discovery or exhaustion of major deposits as well as evolving
exploration effort, technology and similar issues. The major 1960s
mining boom is clearly visible, with other minerals showing
increasing or stable trends. In addition, the ore grades of economic
resources over time for copper, lead, zinc and uranium are shown
in Fig. 7, showing a general long-term decline similar to milled ore
grades.
In addition to the extent of economic mineral resources over
time, it is possible to assess the years remaining for various
minerals by comparing resources to annual production, the
resources-to-production ratio (RP ratio), given in Table 2. The
RP ratio is only calculated assuming constant 2008 production
and ignores increasing annual production over time. The RP ratio
over time for black coal is included in Fig. 2, showing a strong
declining trend in the past two decades as production has climbed
signicantly.
Results: sustainability reporting and resource intensity
Energy consumptionuranium and gold mining
The compiled data sets for the energy intensity of gold
and uranium mining are shown in Fig. 8. The trend line
included for gold is based on the best co-efcient of
determination (R
2
) for the entire data set. The power-type
regression in Fig. 8 gives the highest R
2
, with individual
regressions for open cut or underground not showing any
Table 1
Cumulative mineral production by State and Australia to 2008.
Units VIC NSW QLD TAS SA NT WA Aust Period
P
Bauxite Mt 0.217 0.235 408.2 197.2 874.3 1,480 19272008
Black Coal (raw) Mt 22.74 4,519.2 4,052.3 27.49 117.9 207.0 8,947 18292008
Brown Coal (raw) Mt 2,193 2,193 18892008
Copper kt 15.4 2,903 11,167 1,737 3,181 366.9 1,103 20,473 18422008
Diamonds Mcarats 0.2 0.52 772.3 773 18672008
Gold t 2,389.1 885.9 1,375.4 205.5 65.9 546.9 6,308.2 11,777 18512008
Ilmenite kt conc 101.6 1,483 4,514 0.6 17 5 40,927 47,050 19342008
Iron Ore Mt 0.041 4.84 0.668 81.24 248.9 8.378 4,954 5,298 18892008
Lead kt 0.4 22,621 11,573 2,269 18.1 639.5 823.5 37.945 18502008
Manganese Ore kt 0.4 76.4 158.4 0.8 62.7 71,344 9,956 81,599 19462008
Monazite kt 22.3 5.5 220.4 248 19472008
Nickel kt 327.4 2.6 4,137.7 4,467.7 19672008
Rutile kt conc 191.8 4,771 4,346 39.8 6.7 6 3,169 12,531 19342008
Synthetic Rutile
a
kt b8,520 b8,520 19802005
a
Silver t 55.0 34,084 35,181 5,776 333.7 875.1 2,131 78,435 18702008
Tin kt 13.7 182.3 180.4 394.4 6.0 38.0 814.7 18702008
Uranium t U
3
O
8
8,893 59,848 115,961 11 184,714 19062008
Zircon kt 260.8 4,913 3,436 38.5 0.4 26 11,226 19,901 19342008
Zinc kt 19.5 22,961 14,009 5,544 553.8 2,343 3,034 48,465 18832008
Data incomplete and approximate; b Much greater than.
P
2008 production data are preliminary.
a
Synthetic rutile data for WA only from 1980 to 2005 due to changes
in reporting (production started in the late 1960s). All data sources listed in detail in (Mudd, 2009a), with state and Australian totals being approximate only and based on
the best available data set.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 102
ARTICLE IN PRESS
substantive difference. The power-type relationship between ore
grade and unit energy intensity is normal in life cycle analyses
(e.g. Norgate and Rankin, 2002). Average energy intensity for gold
and uranium production is summarised in Table 3. For uranium,
Olympic Dams resource intensity is calculated using 20% to
account for the fact it is a copperuranium project, this being the
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
1840 1930
O
r
e

G
r
a
d
e
s

(
%
C
u
,

%
N
i
,

k
g
/
t

U
3
O
8
)
Copper
Nickel
Uranium
Rich oxidised Cu ores
Transition to sulfide Cu ores
Steady sulfide Cu ores
Closure of open pits,
switch to underground
Re-opening of
major open pits
Start of Mt Isa, general expansion of Cu
mining,
C
u
-
N
i
:
Uranium:
Radium era Cold War era Civillian nuclear power era
0
4
8
12
16
20
24
28
32
1880
O
r
e

G
r
a
d
e
s

(
%
P
b
,

%
Z
n
)
0
600
1,200
1,800
2,400
3,000
3,600
S
i
l
v
e
r

O
r
e

G
r
a
d
e

(
g
/
t

A
g
)
Lead
Zinc
Silver
Development of
Broken Hill
Flotation and start of
major Zinc production
Gradual expansion of Pb-Zn mining
Development
of Mt Isa
20
40
60
80
1855
L
e
a
d

G
r
a
d
e

(
%
P
b
)
Hand-sorted Pb ore
Northampton, WA
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
1855 1945
O
r
e

G
r
a
d
e
s

(
%
F
e
,

%
A
l
2
O
3
,

%
M
n
,

g
/
t

A
u
,

c
a
r
a
t
s
/
t
)
Gold Diamonds
Iron Bauxite
Manganese
Iron
Bauxite
Gold
Manganese
Diamonds
1855 1870 1885 1900 1915 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005
1895 1910 1925 1940 1955 1970 1985 2000
1870 1885 1900 1915 1930 1960 1975 1990 2005
1865 1875 1885
Fig. 3. Historical trends in ore grades in Australia(i) copper, nickel and uranium (top); (ii) lead, zinc and silver (middle) and (iii) gold, diamonds, iron ore, bauxite and
manganese (bottom).
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 103
ARTICLE IN PRESS
0
20
40
60
80
100
1895
%
O
p
e
n

C
u
t

M
i
n
i
n
g

(
o
r
e
)
Copper
Nickel
Cu
Ni
0
20
40
60
80
100
1895
%
O
p
e
n

C
u
t

M
i
n
i
n
g

(
o
r
e
)
Lead-Zinc-Silver
Uranium
U
Pb-Zn-Ag
1910 1925 1940 1955 1970 1985 2000 1910 1925 1940 1955 1970 1985 2000
Fig. 4. Historical trends in open cut mining in Australia (%ore basis)copper and nickel (left), leadzincsilver and uranium (right).
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
1895
M
i
n
i
m
u
m

W
a
s
t
e

R
o
c
k

(
C
o
p
p
e
r
,

D
i
a
m
o
n
d
s
,

U
r
a
n
i
u
m
)
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
M
i
n
i
m
u
m

W
a
s
t
e

R
o
c
k

(
G
o
l
d
)
Copper (Mt)
Uranium (Mt)
Diamonds (Mt)
Gold (Mt)
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1895
W
a
s
t
e

R
o
c
k
-
t
o
-
O
r
e

R
a
t
i
o

(
C
u
,

A
u
,

D
i
a
m
o
n
d
s
)
0
13
26
39
52
65
78
91
W
a
s
t
e

R
o
c
k
-
t
o
-
O
r
e

R
a
t
i
o

(
U
r
a
n
i
u
m
)
Copper
Gold
Diamonds
Uranium
1905 1915 1925 1935 1945 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005
1905 1915 1925 1935 1945 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005
Fig. 5. Historical trends for waste rock and waste rock-ore ratios in Australia.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 104
ARTICLE IN PRESS
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
1900
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

C
o
p
p
e
r
,

N
i
c
k
e
l
Copper (Mt Cu)
Nickel (Mt Ni)
Cu
Ni
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1900
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

G
o
l
d
,

D
i
a
m
o
n
d
s
Gold (kt Au)
Diamonds (Gcarats)
Gold
Diamonds
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
1900
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

L
e
a
d
,

Z
i
n
c
Lead (Mt Pb)
Zinc (Mt Zn)
Pb
Zn
0
3
6
9
12
15
18
21
24
1900
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

B
a
u
x
i
t
e
,

I
r
o
n

O
r
e
Bauxite (Gt)
Iron Ore (Gt)
Iron Ore
Bauxite
0
11
22
33
44
55
1900
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

B
l
a
c
k

a
n
d

B
r
o
w
n

C
o
a
l
0
0.3
0.6
0.9
1.2
1.5
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

U
r
a
n
i
u
m
Black Coal (Gt)
Brown Coal (Gt)
Uranium (Mt U
3
O
8
)
Uranium
Black Coal
B
r
o
w
n

C
o
a
l
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
1900
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

R
u
t
i
l
e
,

Z
i
r
c
o
n
0
30
60
90
120
150
180
210
240
E
c
o
n
o
m
i
c

R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

:

I
l
m
e
n
i
t
e
Rutile (Mt)
Zircon (Mt)
Ilmenite (Mt)
Ilmenite R
u
t
i
l
e
Zircon
1915 1930 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005 1915 1930 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005
1915 1930 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005 1915 1930 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005
1915 1930 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005 1915 1930 1945 1960 1975 1990 2005
Fig. 6. Historical trends for economic mineral resources in Australia.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 105
ARTICLE IN PRESS
average proportion of revenue received from uranium over time
(normal practice in life cycle assessment; Fthenakis et al., 2009).
Cyanide consumptiongold mining
The compiled data set for the cyanide intensity of gold mining
are shown in Fig. 9. The power-type regression included is based
on the highest R
2
, with other options showing lower R
2
values,
and is common in life cycle analyses. Average cyanide intensity
for gold production is summarised in Table 3.
Water consumptionuranium and gold mining
The compiled data set for the water intensity of gold and
uranium mining are shown in Fig. 10. Average water intensity for
gold and uranium production is summarised in Table 3. All water
is adopted as it is presented in sustainability reports (see later
discussion, plus Mudd, 2008, 2009b).
Greenhouse emissionsuranium and gold mining
The compiled data set for the greenhouse intensity of gold and
uranium mining are shown in Fig. 11. The Olympic Dam project is
analysed in the same way as energy. Average greenhouse
intensity for gold and uranium production is summarised in
Table 3. Similarly to previous gures, there is a reasonable degree
of variability in the gold data. This is partially explained by the
primary electricity source, such as coal or hydro-electricity, since
most hydro data plots below coal. A power-type regression for
coal only gives an R
2
of 0.333, while for hydro the R
2
is 0.434 and
diesel it is 0.524 (other types give very similar or lower R
2
values).
There are coal and hydro-electricity data, however, which show
similar greenhouse intensity for the same ore grade, suggesting
that the proportion of direct and indirect energy is just as crucial
in contributing to the nal greenhouse intensity as energy source.
The data set requires further in-depth analysis of factors such as
processing type (CIP, heap leach, etc.), climate (cold versus hot),
mine depth (e.g. deep South African versus shallower Western
Australian gold mines), project age and duration.
Discussion
The extensive data sets and trends in Australian mining and
associated sustainability analyses for resource intensity repre-
sents a unique semi-quantitative perspective on mining, and
raises numerous issues with respect to sustainability and modern
mining, and sustainability reporting in particular.
Fundamental mega-trends in mining: production, ore grades, wastes
and resources
For almost all minerals in Australia, production continues to
gradually grow over time, with some growing rapidly (e.g. copper,
black coal, zinc, iron ore). Depending on the mineral, there are
various reasons for this production growth. These relate to new
discoveries (and mines), expansions, new technology or higher
prices. The rate of growth of demand for many minerals (e.g. iron
ore, manganese) accelerated in the mid-2000s in response to the
strong economic expansion of China and other Asian economies.
For most metallic minerals there are long-term declines in
average ore grades processedand this is arguably terminal when
0
3
6
9
12
15
18
1890 1950
R
e
s
o
u
r
c
e
s

O
r
e

G
r
a
d
e

(
%
C
u
,

%
P
b
,

%
Z
n
,

k
g
/
t

U
3
O
8
)
Copper
Lead
Zinc
Uranium
1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
Fig. 7. Ore grades of economic resources over time for copper, lead, zinc and uranium.
Table 2
Economic resources, production and years remaining (2008).
Mineral Production Economic Years Sub-Economic
Resources Remaining Resources
Bauxite 64.63 Mt 6.2 Gt 95.9 2.51 Gt
Black Coal 430.5 Mt 39.2 Gt 91.1 74.9 Gt
Brown Coal 66.03 Mt 37.2 Gt 563.4 156.2 Gt
Copper 886 kt 77.8 Mt 87.8 41.8 Mt
Diamonds
a
21.24 Mcarats 419 Mcarats 19.7
a
Gold 214 t 6255 t 29.2 6197 t
Ilmenite 2.04 Mt 212.3 Mt 104.1 200.4 Mt
Iron ore 341.7 Mt 24 Gt 70.2 30.8 Gt
Manganese ore 4.84 Mt 181 Mt 37.4 323 Mt
Lead 645 kt 28.8 Mt 44.7 25.7 Mt
Nickel 200 kt 26.4 Mt 132.0 23.0 Mt
Rutile 325 kt 22.9 Mt 70.5 40.65 Mt
Silver 1926 t 63.4 kt 32.9 48.2 kt
Uranium 9989 t U
3
O
8
1371 kt U
3
O
8
137.2 0.608 kt
Zinc 1519 kt 57.6 Mt 37.9 30.5 Mt
Zircon 550 kt 39.1 Mt 71.1 51.25 Mt
a
Economic resources for diamonds are taken from company annual reports
(e.g. Rio Tinto, Gem Diamonds), not GA (var.)hence no sub-economic resources
are included since the company data exceeds the GA estimate.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 106
ARTICLE IN PRESS
combined with increasing production. That is, since known
economic resources are lower grade than present milled ore
grades and the fact that lower grade deposits are often larger in
contained minerals, the only way to increase production to meet
rising demand is through mining even lower grades than at
present. Some trends show the inuence of mines being
expanded, exhausted or opened, the best example being copper
(such as Burra, Mount Lyell and Mount Isa). For most minerals,
based on known deposits, it is hard to envisage new discoveries or
mining techniques leading to ore grades rising in the future. A
review of known deposits across a variety of minerals suggests
that ore grades will continue to decline, but perhaps at a slower
y = 167487x
-0.2848
R
2
= 0.1962
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
0
Ore Grade (g/t Au)
U
n
i
t

E
n
e
r
g
y

C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
G
J
/
k
g

A
u
)
Open cut - (0.72, 1,081.2)
0
50
100
150
200
250
20 15 10 5 0
Ore Grade (g/t Au)
U
n
i
t

E
n
e
r
g
y

C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
G
J
/
k
g

A
u
)
Underground
Open Cut
Mixed
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
0
U
n
i
t

E
n
e
r
g
y

C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
G
J
/
t

U
3
O
8
)
Ranger
Olympic Dam (20%)
Rossing
Cluff Lake
McLean Lake
McArthur River/Key Lake
Rabbit Lake
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
1983
E
n
e
r
g
y

C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
G
J
/
t

U
3
O
8
)
Ranger
Olympic Dam (20%)
Rossing
Beverley
McLean Lake
McArthur River/Key Lake
Rabbit Lake
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Ore Grade (%U
3
O
8
)
0.7 1.4 2.1 2.8 3.5 4.2
1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007
Fig. 8. Energy intensity versus grade: gold, including regression (top), uranium (bottom left); energy intensity over time for selected uranium mines (bottom right).
Table 3
Weighted average resource intensity for gold and uranium production (including 7 one standard deviation).
Energy consumption (GJ/kg
Au; GJ/t U
3
O
8
)
Water consumption (kL/kg
Au; kL/t U
3
O
8
)
Greenhouse emissions (t CO
2e
/kg
Au; t CO
2e
/t U
3
O
8
)
Cyanide consumption (kg
CN/kg Au)
Gold 1497105 634.971208 13.9712.9 1987204
Uranium
a
2737124 175372798 26.4717.6
a
Estimated excluding Olympic Dam.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 107
ARTICLE IN PRESS
0
250
500
750
1,000
1,250
0
Ore Grade (g/t Au)
U
n
i
t

C
y
a
n
i
d
e

C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
t

C
N
/
k
g

A
u
)
Underground
Open Cut
Mixed
y = 258.16x
-0.6501
R
2
= 0.3623
3 6 9 12 15 18
Fig. 9. Cyanide intensity by mine type versus ore grade, including regression.
y = 102.69x
-0.3389
R
2
= 0.1131
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
0
Ore Throughput (Mt/year)
U
n
i
t

W
a
t
e
r

C
o
s
t

(
k
L
/
t

o
r
e
)
Underground
Open Cut
Mixed
0
10
20
30
40
50
0
U
n
i
t

W
a
t
e
r

C
o
s
t

(
k
L
/
t

o
r
e
)
0
500
1,000
1,500
2,000
2,500
1990
W
a
t
e
r


C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
k
L
/
t

U
3
O
8
)
(
a
l
l

e
x
c
e
p
t

B
e
v
e
r
l
e
y
)
0
2,000
4,000
6,000
8,000
10,000
12,000
W
a
t
e
r

C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
k
L
/
t

U
3
O
8
)

(
B
e
v
e
r
l
e
y
)
Ranger
Olympic Dam (20%)
Rossing
McLean Lake
McArthur River/Key Lake
Rabbit Lake
Beverley
Water Consumption (kL/t ore)
0
0.3
0.6
0.9
1.2
1.5
1.8
1990
R
a
n
g
e
r
,

O
l
y
m
p
i
c

D
a
m

(
2
0
%
)
,

R
o
s
s
i
n
g
0
9
18
27
36
45
54
M
c
A
r
t
h
u
r

R
i
v
e
r
/
K
e
y

L
a
k
e
,

R
a
b
b
i
t
L
a
k
e
,

M
c
L
e
a
n

L
a
k
e
Ranger
Olympic Dam (20%)
Rossing
McLean Lake
McArthur River/Key Lake
Rabbit Lake
Ore Throughput (Mt/year)
20 40 60 80 100 120 140
1993 1996 1999 2002 2005 2008
1993 1996 1999 2002 2005 2008
8 16 24 32 40
Fig. 10. Water intensity versus grade: gold, including regression (top), uranium (bottom left); water intensity over time for selected uranium mines (bottom right).
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 108
ARTICLE IN PRESS
rate than the past. According to Mudd (2009a), the average gold
ore grade processed in 2005 was 1.94 g/t whereas a compilation
of economic gold resources for 2005 shows a grade of 1.0 g/t.
A critical problem with the ore grade data for iron ore, bauxite
and manganese is that it represents the grade of saleable (i.e.
beneciated) product from 1952 onwardsand not the raw grade
y = 27.92x
-0.6042
R
2
= 0.3328
y = 7.9054x
-0.5161
R
2
= 0.4344
y = 17.726x
-0.3823
R
2
= 0.5243
0
10
20
30
40
50
0
Ore Grade (g/t Au)
U
n
i
t

G
r
e
e
n
h
o
u
s
e

E
m
i
s
s
i
o
n
s

(
t

C
O
2
/
k
g

A
u
)
Coal
Diesel
Gas
Hydro
Coal/Hydro
Diesel/Geothermal
Gas/Hydro
Hydro/Coal
Hydro - (0.72, 81.2)
Coal - (5.3, 59.57)
Hydro -
(77.1, 0.2), (82.39, 0.2)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
0
Unit Energy Consumption (GJ/kg Au)
U
n
i
t

G
r
e
e
n
h
o
u
s
e

E
m
i
s
s
i
o
n
s

(
t

C
O
2
/
k
g

A
u
)
Coal Diesel
Gas Hydro
Coal/Hydro Diesel/Geothermal
Gas/Hydro Hydro/Coal
Points excluded:
(301.1, 95.01) and
(288.9, 117.47)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
0
U
n
i
t

C
a
r
b
o
n

D
i
o
x
i
d
e

E
m
i
s
s
i
o
n
s

(
t

C
O
2
/
t

U
3
O
8
)
Ranger
Olympic Dam (20%)
Rossing
Cluff Lake
McLean Lake
McArthur River/Key Lake
Rabbit Lake
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
1983
E
n
e
r
g
y

C
o
n
s
u
m
p
t
i
o
n

(
G
J
/
t

U
3
O
8
)
Ranger
Olympic Dam (20%)
Rossing
Beverley
McLean Lake
McArthur River/Key Lake
Rabbit Lake
10 20 30 40 50 60
110 220 330 440 550 660
Ore Grade (%U
3
O
8
)
0.7 1.4 2.1 2.8 3.5 4.2
1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007
Coal
Hydro
Diesel
Fig. 11. Carbon intensity versus grade: gold, including regression (top), carbon intensity versus energy cost (middle) (showing linear trend lines for coal, R
2
59.1%, and
hydro, R
2
67.5%); uranium (bottom left); carbon intensity over time for selected uranium mines (bottom right).
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 109
ARTICLE IN PRESS
of as-mined ore. Reporting of as-mined ore grades is rare in these
sectors. The only example for iron ore is the Savage River project
in Tasmania, for which all mine and mill data are reported by the
state agency. For manganese, the smaller Bootu Creek and Woodie
Woodie mines report percent manganese grades but the large
Groote Eylandt mine does not. The iron ore grade from 1907 to
1945 is for New South Wales only (the smaller producer) but does
appear to reect extracted iron content (see Mudd, 2009a). As
such, although recent ore grades for iron ore, bauxite and
manganese appear relatively stable with only a very minor
decline, this reects saleable product and not as-mined ore.
Two other principal issues related to ore grade are impurities
(e.g. arsenic, mercury) and the quality or refractory nature of the
mineralogy. The denition of an impurity is difcult since some
metals such as arsenic are widespread in some ore types (e.g.
copper, gold) and can be commercially extracted depending on
market conditions. In any case, metals such as arsenic or mercury
can add signicant health and environmental risks in mining and
processing. In Europe, the new REACH regulations will govern
impurity levels in products being delivered into the European
Union (see Minns, 2008).
Over time it is relatively common that more refractory types of
ores have been developed in Australia. This is reasonably well
documented for the gold sector, especially the processing of clay-
rich laterite ores by CIP processing using salt-rich brines (Mudd,
2007b). For leadzincsilver, each transition from Broken Hill to
Mount Isa to McArthur River has seen the ore become more
refractory, especially for the very ne-grained McArthur River ore
(Mudd, 2007a). Similarly, the recent development and implementa-
tion of new high pressure acid leach (HPAL) process technology in
the late 1990s has made extensive but refractory nickel laterite
deposits viable to mine and processthough at a higher resource
intensity compared to sulde projects (Jessup and Mudd, 2008).
The ability to consider refractory or impurity-rich ores as an
economic mineral resource will continue to be a function of
technology, economics and environmental conditions, although
exceedingly little such research is available.
The principal mining technique has, since about 1950, moved
from underground to open cut, especially for black coal, nickel
and gold. For several minerals, open cut mining has facilitated
substantive project scales to be established in provinces such as
the Pilbara, the Hunter Valley, Kalgoorlie and the Darling Ranges.
For some sectors, such as copper and leadzincsilver, signicant
underground mining still occurs. In terms of material moved, it is
clear that open cut mining is used for the vast majority of ore and
waste rock extracted annually across the Australian industry. The
dominance of open cut mining looks set to continue for at least a
decade, provided the price of transport fuels remains competitive
(most critically diesel; see Graham, 2008). The recent decline in
open cut mining for black coal, from a peak of 78.1% in 2004 to
75.7% in 2008, may suggest the beginning of a trend back to
underground miningpossibly reecting the exhaustion of near-
surface coal resources and the need to mine deeper. For some
metals, such as copper, gold or uranium, there is a view that
future mineral deposits will be discovered deeper and it is unclear
whether this will eventually lead to a major shift back to
underground mining or even larger open cut mines (such as the
mega-pits planned for the Olympic Dam expansion and the
potential Mount Isa pit).
In conjunction with the major shift to open cut mining, the
extent of waste rock is now likely to be at least equivalent to the
amount of ore mined and for many minerals is up to several times
higher. While a major proportion of this waste rock is likely to be
relatively chemically benign, a major quantity is likely to present
challenges during operations and rehabilitation due to suldes
present, climate regimes, sensitive environments or communities
being adjacent or a combination of these factors. At present, there is
no compulsory requirement for public reporting of the waste rock
mined annually, nor its nature (such as potentially acid-forming).
The rehabilitation of mined land and associated mine wastes is
now a major legal requirement and legitimate community
expectationbut the long-term success of engineered rehabilita-
tion works is not guaranteed. The scale of waste rock movement
present now in the mining industry far exceeds that at historic
mines, and therefore the previous generation of rehabilitated mines
cannot be used with certainty to be assured of future success. For
example, the Commonwealth Government spent some $25 million
on rehabilitation of the former Rum Jungle eld in 1980s yet in
2007 the adjacent East Finniss River is still heavily polluted by acid
mine drainage leaching from rehabilitated waste rock dumps (see
Mudd and Patterson, 2008)see Fig. 12. The engineering principles
of unsaturated ow mechanics used to design the soil covers at
Rum Jungle still form the basis for management and rehabilitation
of high risk AMD wastes today, and so understanding the
performance of the site is crucial in the industrys long-term
efforts in addressing this major environmental risk (see
Lottermoser, 2007). It is not assured that scaling up the
performance of rehabilitation of older sites to much larger
modern sites is realistic, especially given different operating
conditions. Given the growing scale of modern mine waste, even
if only 1% of wastes continue to cause pollution (i.e. rehabilitation is
99% perfect), this amounts to tens to hundreds of millions of tonnes
leaving a lasting environmental legacy. Caution needs to be applied
in predicting the trajectory of long-term rehabilitation behaviour.
With respect to economic resources, most commodities show
gradually increasing quantities, with distinct periods of major
increases evident at different times for particular minerals (e.g.
1960s for iron ore, 1980s onwards for gold, 1990s onwards for
rutile and zircon). For copper, major new discoveries continue to
be made (e.g. Prominent Hill and Carrapateena in South Australia)
Fig. 12. Acid mine drainage from the rehabilitated Whites waste rock dump (left, note the active seepage ows) and the adjacent bed of the Finniss River in the dry season
(right), Rum Jungle, July 2007.
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 110
ARTICLE IN PRESS
and there are browneld increases to existing deposits or mines
(especially Olympic Dam and Mount Isa). Nickel resources have
increased substantially from the mid-1990s due to the inclusion
of laterite ore resources as economic following the emergence of
new HPAL technology (Jessup and Mudd, 2008; Mudd, 2007a). In
comparison, uranium has primarily increased over time due to
increased drilling and the expansion of economic resources at
known deposits (principally Olympic Dam, plus Ranger to a lesser
extent), although some new deposits are being discovered (e.g.
Beverley Four Mile).
According to Geoscience Australia, it is notable that resources
levels for major commodities like black coal, iron ore and base
metals have plateaued (pp. 10, 2006 Edition, GA, var.). For black
coal, however, the amount of economic resources is commonly
only that existing in mine leases and has had sufcient mine
planning to classify it as mineral resources under the JORC code.
Analysis of geologic information and historical assessments of
possible in situ coal present in Queensland and New South Wales
alone suggests a potential magnitude of some hundreds of billions
of tonnes (pp. 2124, Mudd, 2009a)compared to the 2008
estimate of 39.2 Gt. The same basis exists for brown coal, iron ore
and bauxite. For metallic commodities, a pattern of rising
economic resources has been maintained, while it is common for
sub-economic resources to be further evaluated and upgraded to
economic resources over time (either through expanded resources,
improved technology, market conditions, etc.). This aspect of
mineral resources is shown in Table 2, with sub-economic
resources commonly being similar to or greater than economic
resources.
The fundamental questions which follow from this are not
whether mineral resources are nite but(i) what are the future
conditions under which mineral resources are likely to be
considered economic?; (ii) what are the associated social and
environmental costs of mineral production?; and (iii) what are the
critical links between economic, social and environmental aspects
of mining? The emergence of sustainability reporting and asso-
ciated data affords the opportunity to analyse these questions more
thoroughly.
Sustainability reporting and resource intensity: comprehensiveness
and transparency
The data presented on sustainability reporting, and esti-
mates of the resource intensity per unit mineral production
demonstrates that resource intensity is sensitive to the ore grade
being processed. This is expected, since lower ore grade requires
more ore to be mined and processed to maintain a constant level
of production. The data suggests that larger projects can achieve
economies of scale, but often at the expense of greater total
resource requirements. The compilations presented on gold and
uranium mining were effectively sector level views. Aspects such
as open cut, mixed or underground mining were included for gold
(but not age, depth or project scale), while processing type such as
heap leaching versus carbon-in-pulp milling, ore types, or
tropical, temperate or arid climates, etc., were not included as
potential factors (commonly due to lack of reporting or sufcient
details). A review of the data does not easily suggest or indicate
the degree to which these factors could inuence the resource
intensity for gold or uranium productionthere is considerable
more research required in advancing the understanding of the
complex factors which underpin the variability in Figs. 811.
When the ore grade sensitivity of resource intensity is considered
in light of declining ore grades, and potentially increasingly
refractory ores, this suggests that the resource intensity of
mineral production in the future will increase given existing
technology. There has been a long-term evolution of technology in
the mining industry, including greater mechanisation which has
improved labour productivity and economics, and the inevitable
march of technological progress will almost denitely conti-
nuebut the question remains open whether future innovation
will deliver new technology at a lower resource intensity.
Considering resource intensity in light of sustainability
reporting, there are a number of issues which are apparent with
respect to the Global Reporting Initiative. Under the GRI protocol
(GRI, 2006) and the draft mining sector supplement (GRI, 2009),
the primary indicator for solid mine wastes is EN22, which is the
total weight of waste by type and disposal method. It clearly
includes landll wastes (putrescible material), metal scrap, inert
solids (e.g. cement), construction waste, solid chemical wastes,
used tyres, and the like. There is widespread inconsistency,
however, as to whether EN22 explicitly includes solid mine
wastes such as tailings and waste rock. The nal draft mining
sector supplement proposes that only hazardous mine wastes
should be reported after a site-specic risk assessment under a
specic indicator MM3 (pp. 42 and 46, GRI, 2009). Therefore
some companies who use the GRI as their sustainability reporting
basis do not publicly disclose tailings and waste rock data under
EN22 while some companies give variable levels of information.
Fig. 13. Recent examples of tailings and waste rock reporting under GRIs solid waste indicator (EN22).
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 111
ARTICLE IN PRESS
To illustrate this, examples of solid waste reporting are shown
in Fig. 13, and highlight the variable way in which data are
reported. For one case the data does not distinguish between
tailings or waste rockwhich are fundamentally different in
terms of their scale and nature with respect to long-term
environmental risks. Curiously, some companies report tailings
and waste rock data as part of nancial performance while others
do not. While some companies do acknowledge and discuss the
nature of their solid wastes, such as potentially acid-forming,
quantitative data in sustainability reports are exceedingly
rarethe vast majority of companies do not. At present,
signicant further research is needed to fully characterise the
extent and nature of tailings and waste rock, and especially the
long-term success of rehabilitation measures on reactive mine
wastes.
For energy, some companies report totals only, with no
explanation of energy sources or the split between direct and
indirect energy, while others give detailed breakdown by several
energy sources. Further to this, some companies give consump-
tion in mass or volume terms and do not present energy in
consistent metric units such as gigajoules (GJ) or the relevant
conversion factors for their respective energy components
(allowing for differences between various continents and regions).
Consistent, accurate energy reporting is imperative to ensure
accurate life cycle analyses.
Recently, it was shown that the energy intensity of the
Australian mining industry had increased by 3.7% per year from
1989/90 to 2005/06 (Sandu and Syed, 2008). Importantly, it was
noted that energy costs in mining were exacerbated by the
increasing energy costs of drilling deeper during exploration as
well as the problem of lower grade oresadding further evidence
to the increasing energy costs for unit mineral production.
Furthermore, energy savings were outweighed by higher energy
requirements.
Similarly for greenhouse emissions, complete data are often
not reported (despite being core GRI data), or the conversion
factors for carbon costs not referenced or noted (which do vary
from region or source, especially electricity source). This is,
without doubt, part of the reason for the variability in Fig. 11.
Given declining ore grades and the inverse relationship between
ore grades and energy/greenhouse intensity, it can be expected
that greenhouse emissions will be a growing challenge for the
mining industry. This is especially pertinent given the current
debate concerning emissions trading systems, carbon taxes or
other measures to reduce greenhouse emissions and address
climate change. If government and industry policy response to
climate change was to foster the renewable energy industry, this
could change the nature of CO
2e
GJ relationships considerably,
especially if transport fuels such as biodiesel became prevalent.
With respect to water and the data in Fig. 10, there are major
variations in reporting despite the clear intent of EN8-10.
Specically, some projects clearly confuse raw water withdrawn
from a water resource with recycled or reused water while others
distinguish such aspects but only report raw water consumption.
The resultant assessment of water costs is therefore only a
fraction of the true embodied water costs (Mudd, 2008, 2009b).
The trends of water intensity over time for uranium in Fig. 10
show a commonly increasing or signicantly variable trend per
unit production (kL/t U
3
O
8
), while also showing either stable or
declining intensity per ore processed. This is an evidence for the
effects of declining ore grades over time, which almost all
uranium projects have during this period.
A critical issue for water resources which is not included in GRI
indicators is the quality of water consumed and/or recycled. The
volume of water used is critical but this cannot be considered in
isolation from water quality, principally in terms of salinity but
also trace metals or nutrients. For example, numerous mines in
arid central Western Australia utilise hyper-saline water re-
sources (commonly groundwater and, to a lesser extent, also
surface waters) with a salinity higher than seawater (e.g. Norgate
and Lovel, 2006). The varying quality of water resources used for
different mines makes the equivalent water costs a vexed issue
(see Cote and Moran, 2009; Mudd, 2008). The inconsistencies in
reporting total and recycled water consumed in mineral produc-
tion and water inventories, as well as the varying quality of water
resources and signicantly different project congurations could
help to explain the scatter and variation in the three graphs in
Fig. 10.
As an additional or voluntary indicator, GRI allows for the
reporting of impacts on water resources associated with water
extraction for mining. A challenging issue in this regard is
contained minesite water inventories, which are often consider-
ably larger than water consumed in ore processing and associated
activities. For example, the Ranger uraniumproject commonly has
a total minesite water inventory in engineered retention ponds or
tailings facilities which is greater in volume by one to two orders
of magnitude than reported annual water consumption (which,
curiously, is only drinking water and not process water). The total
extent of impacts on water resources, either in hydrologic,
ecological or water quality terms, will vary widely between mine
sites and climates, though it remains critical to consider these
combined and often cumulative effects in any assessment of the
embodied water in mining.
Additionally, many companies reporting data over time fail to
explain abrupt increases or reductions at a given mine. For
example, one gold mine reported a change in greenhouse
emissions from 0.18 Mt CO
2e
/year (8 years) to 1 Mt CO
2e
/
year (2 years) and then in the following year subsequently
changed this 2 years of data to 0.1 Mt CO
2e
/yearbut with no
explanation or basis (e.g. calculation or publication error). This
can sometimes be related to corporate takeovers or merger
activity leading to new policies or methodologies for compiling
data, but this is rarely explained and justied in subsequent
reports. Such problems in reporting are often despite use of the
GRI, raising serious issues of governance and highlights the strong
need for external auditing.
Finally, some companies report corporate totals only under GRI
and not site-specic data. For diversied miners with multiple
commodities (e.g. BHP Billiton), this makes it impractical to
analyse reported dataespecially considering the continuing
growth in production which invariably leads to increased inputs
and outputs.
As a voluntary protocol, the GRI is helping to improve the
breadth, depth and consistency of sustainability reporting and
associated data, but there remain many areas in which mining
companies can improve their internal processes and external
standards.
In Australia, the statutory National Pollutant Inventory (NPI)
considers only those emissions of pollutants which are effectively
released to the environment and denes waste rock and tailings
facilities as land transfers only (pp. 3031, NPI, 2001)leaving
waste rock and tailings data outside the scope of reportable NPI
emissions (though any escape from a waste rock or tailings facility
would still be reportable). This is a critical weakness in the NPI, as
both tailings and waste rock have the potential to become major
point sources of listed pollutants such as cyanide and metals. An
online search of the NPI facilities database (www.npi.gov.au)
reveals that some major sites of acid mine drainage (e.g. Mount
Lyell, Tasmania) are included while others are not (e.g. Mount
Morgan, Queensland). Given the vast quantities of mine wastes
now produced annually, there is a substantive quantity of listed
NPI pollutants contained within tailings and waste rock yet they
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 112
ARTICLE IN PRESS
are excluded from, or at least poorly addressed by, such
accounting and reporting systems.
Two nal issues of note with respect to sustainability reporting
are those of intellectual property (IP) and competitive advantage.
It is possible that disclosure of all relevant GRI data could, in
particular circumstances, divulge either sensitive IP or affect the
competitive position of a company. These are important con-
siderations with respect to the ongoing viability of a specialised
process technology or company. However, the overall trend in
mining, as well as many other industry and government sectors, is
towards greater reporting, transparency and accountability (e.g.
Mudd, 2009b; Yongvanicha and Guthrie, 2005). Given the
prominence of environmental issues in the public sphere (e.g.
energy, climate change and water), and the concerns and
criticisms often raised with regards to the mining industry, it is
important to be demonstrating sound evidence for company and
industry performanceand sustainability reporting is a viable
mechanism to achieve this.
Combining production and environmental sustainability for mining
When the trends of long-term growth in mineral production
are combined with an increasing resource intensity, this means
that inputs and outputs will rise at a faster rate than production
alone. There are substantial implications from this, such as:
increased demand for diesel when the world is debating the
reality of peak oilleading to fundamental questions con-
cerning both supply as well as the costs of future supply;
rising greenhouse emissions when many governments are
planning or implementing emissions trading schemes (or a
carbon tax) as a major international policy response to the
risks of climate change;
the need to incorporate renewable energy sources into the
mining industry more rapidly than is presently the case as part
of an industry response to greenhouse emissions issues;
growth in demand for water, both in terms of land use but
especially in terms of consumptive use;
comparing the resource intensity of new mineral production
versus recycling and more efcient use, or both;
strong growth in mineral demand from rapidly developing
countries, especially China but also India (and South America
and Africa in the near future), continuing to place substantive
pressure on economic resources for most (if not all) commodities.
Consider Australian copper production as a case study. Based
on the production data in Fig. 1, it is possible to t exponential or
power-type regressions either to the entire data set or production
since 1950. For the entire data set, the R
2
values are 0.716 and
0.715 for exponential or power-type regressions, respectively. If
only production since 1950 is used, the time that the Australian
copper industry began to grow substantively, the respective R
2
values are higher at 0.926 and 0.936. The predicted production in
2030 and 2050 is shown in Table 4, varying from 1.11 to 3.81 Mt
Cu/year in 2030 to 2.17 to 11.95 Mt Cu/year in 2050. Based on the
extent of economic copper resources, the cumulative production
(Table 4) represented by these predictions is certainly within
reach (cf. Table 2).
Finally, Norgate and Rankin (2002) used life cycle assessment
to estimate the relationship between total greenhouse emissions
and copper ore grade, shown in Fig. 14. At Australias average
2008 ore grade of 0.95% Cu (cf. Fig. 3), this gives an estimate of
unit greenhouse emissions of 8.7 or 8.9 t CO
2e
/t Cu from
pyrometallurgical or hydrometallurgical processing, respectively.
Projecting the decline in ore grades to 2030 and 2050, using a
power regression (R
2
0.714; exponential is 0.708), gives esti-
mated grades of 0.57% and 0.40% Cu, respectively. By 2050,
therefore, the unit greenhouse emissions could reach 18.6 or
13.3 t CO
2e
/t Cu from pyrometallurgical or hydrometallurgical
processing, respectively. As shown in Table 4, this means that
total greenhouse emissions for the copper sector alone of the
Table 4
Possible future copper production and greenhouse emissions scenarios.
Data set for regression All All 19502008 19502008
Regression type Exponential Power Exponential Power
correlation (R
2
) 0.716 0.715 0.926 0.936
2030 Copper Prod. (kt Cu) 1203 1112 3810 2588
2030 Emissions (Mt CO
2e
)
a
16.55 15.30 52.43 35.60
2050 Copper Prod. (kt Cu) 2445 2171 11,946 5694
20092050 Cum. (kt Cu) 54,350 49,769 195,600 118,456
2050 Emissions (Mt CO
2e
)
b
29.09 25.83 142.1 67.75
2050 Emissions (Mt CO
2e
)
c
34.69 30.80 169.5 80.78
a
Greenhouse emissions based on projected ore grade decline to 0.57% Cu and the use of pyrometallurgical processing.
b
Greenhouse emissions based on projected ore grade decline to 0.40% Cu and the use of hydrometallurgical processing.
c
Greenhouse emissions based on projected ore grade decline to 0.40% Cu and the use of pyrometallurgical processing.
y = 8.7132x
-0.4654
R
2
= 0.9674
y = 8.3745x
-0.8787
R
2
= 0.9988
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
0
Ore Grade (%Cu)
U
n
i
t

G
r
e
e
n
h
o
u
s
e

E
m
i
s
s
i
o
n
s

(
k
g

C
O
2
/
k
g

C
u
)
Pyrometallurgy
Hydrometallurgy
Pyrometallurgy
Hydrometallurgy
0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5
Fig. 14. Estimated relationship between unit greenhouse emissions and copper
ore grade (reproduced from Norgate and Rankin, (2002).
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 113
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Australian mining industry could reach between 15.3 and
169.5 Mt CO
2e
if all copper was produced using pyro-
metallurgycompared to about 7.8 Mt CO
2e
at present. Thus
greenhouse emissions could easily double (or more) over the
timeframe that the public sphere is debating the merits of
reductions of the order of 5080% from 2000 levels. If such targets
are to be achieved, this would mean a maximum level of
emissions for copper production in 2050 of between 2.4 and
3.8 Mt CO
2e
meaning effective cuts in unit emissions ranging
from a best case of 75% (15.33.8 Mt CO
2e
) to a worst case of
98% (169.52.4 Mt CO
2e
).
These estimates are, by their nature, coarse and are furnished
to provoke discussion on what, ultimately, is one of the most
fundamental challenges to the environmental sustainability of the
mining industry in Australiagreenhouse emissions and climate
change. In addition, not surprisingly, are issues around increasing
solid wastes, competition for water, peak oil, recycling, social
constraints, economics and markets, technological innovation and
so on.
An important part of the solution could be to increase the rate
of metals recycling, as this is commonly of less energy and
emissions intensive. The recent evolution of and current cong-
uration of the mining industry, however, is largely separated from
metals recyclingwith most mining companies, such as Rio Tinto,
BHP Billiton, Vale, Anglo American, Xstrata and others, being
primary producers and not being involved in metals recycling in
any meaningful manner. One notable exception is Swedish miner
Boliden, who operate one of Europes largest metals recycling and
e-waste smelters (see Mudd, 2009b).
In the longer term, it is difcult to predict the conguration of
the mining industry given the complexity of factors discussed (e.g.
will heap leaching and hydrometallurgy become more dominant
due to its lower emissions intensity?). It is clear that various
environmental constraints will prove a constant and growing
challenge, and that business as usual will not meet the known
challenges, especially with respect to energy sources, consump-
tion and greenhouse emissions.
Summary and conclusions
Moving from a production philosophy through improved
environmental management to now embracing the triple bottom
line of sustainabilitysocial, economic and environmental
componentsthe debate and the performance of the modern
mining industry, both in Australia and globally, has clearly made
important progress over recent decades. This paper has presented
ongoing research into quantifying and understanding various
strategic aspects of the environmental sustainability of mining in
Australia, especially the emerging sustainability reporting re-
gimes becoming increasingly adopted by mining companies.
In terms of the major trends in modern mining, a number of
fundamental aspects have been shown:
Substantially increasing productionalmost all minerals
and metals show strong to near exponential growth over time,
especially over the past three to four decades;
Declining ore grades (or quality)while early mines pro-
cessed rich oxide ores, average industry grades for most metals
and minerals are now commonly much lower, with known
economic resources suggesting this decline in ore grades will
gradually continue. In addition, the quality (mineralogy) of
mineral deposits are generally becoming more complex and
difcult to process;
Open cut miningsince the mid-twentieth century there has
been a major shift from underground to open cut mining,
especially in some sectors such as coal, gold and nickel, while
others have always been entirely open cut (e.g. iron ore,
bauxite, mineral sands);
Waste rockcombined with the signicant increase in open
cut mining, there has been a near exponential increase in the
waste rock excavated in modern mining. For most metals and
minerals the quantity of waste rock excavated is signicantly
higher than the ore processed, and this ratio is increasing over
timepresenting a major and growing challenge in mine
rehabilitation;
Economic resourcesalthough often perceived as non-
renewable, the extent of economic mineral and metal
resources has often increased over time in Australia, though
some appear to have stabilised. Growing production continues
to exacerbate pressure on remaining economic resources as
well as forcing a gradual shift to lower quality or more
refractory deposits. Whether this validates the Limits to
Growth approach is a matter of perspective, since it is possible
to conclude that mineral resources are, in general, still
growing, or that the time of limited remaining mineral
resources is getting closer;
Sustainability reportingthe emergence of sustainability
reporting protocols, such as the voluntary Global Reporting
Initiative or the statutory National Pollutant Inventory, are
helping to improve the transparency of modern mines,
though there still remains clear reluctance to explicitly
report all relevant data such as waste rock, tailings, energy,
cyanide and water consumption, greenhouse emissions, or
other aspects;
Resource intensitythe modern solid waste burden of metals
and minerals is substantive, and continues to increase.
Additionally, the resource intensity, in terms of inputs and
outputs, is signicant and sensitive to ore grade, leading to the
realisation that the resource intensity is likely to gradually
increase in the future as mines shift to lower grade and
possibly more refractory deposits (proving an assumption of
the Limits to Growth). This makes comprehensive sustain-
ability reporting even more critical. It is also important to
consider resource intensity in conjunction with other costs
such as capital and labour.
This paper has presented a wide range of data sets on the
Australian mining industry as well as various issues affecting the
resource intensity of unit mineral production. Fundamentally, the
vast scale of modern mine waste presents signicant engineering
challenges to meet an ever more complex array of environmental
requirements, social expectations, corporate policies and statu-
tory demands. The emerging sustainability reporting protocols
will facilitate ongoing improvement and transparency, but
consistency needs to be improved. Although it may be possible
to nd new mineral deposits in the future, with improved
technology or favourable economics facilitating the processing
of higher cost resources, it is the environmental cost which will, in
the medium to longer term, govern the real availability of metals
and minerals. On this basis, it is possible to claim that the Limits
to Growth approach is both right and wrongwrong in the sense
that economic mineral resources commonly continue to increase
over time but right in the fact that mineral resources are
becoming increasingly costly from an environmental perspective.
This is the classic proverb of the glass being half-full versus half-
emptyand the evidence in this paper shows the importance of
looking at historical trends to believe the glass is half-full, or using
these trends to project future scenarios to believe the glass is half-
empty and declining at an increasing rate. It is clear that various
environmental constraints will prove a constant and growing
challenge, and that business as usual will not meet the known
G.M. Mudd / Resources Policy 35 (2010) 98115 114
ARTICLE IN PRESS
challenges, especially with respect to energy sources, consump-
tion and greenhouse emissions.
In summary, the vast scale of modern mining, mine wastes and
existing and future resource intensity will continue to challenge
the sustainability of the industry and requires eternal vigilance by
all involvedgovernments, shareholders, communities and in-
dustry alike.
Acknowledgements
This paper has been the product of several years of ongoing
data collection and analysis. The Mineral Policy Institute are to be
acknowledged for their in-kind support, as well as numerous
companies for providing data and responding to requests. Various
colleagues also deserve sincere thanks for their help in lling gaps
in data and reviewing earlier versions of this research work. In
particular, I would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for
their frank and thoughtful comments, thereby helping to improve
the paper signicantly.
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