environmental iron ore system sand production line in lyon

environmental iron ore system sand production line in lyon

''Mining" probably conjures several images. One familiar scene is of the old West, where prospectors blast the sides of mountains, tunnel through the earth, or pan at a river's edge for gold. Another is of environmental impacts of acid mine drainage from older mines that did not benefit from modern technology and management practices. The common view of mining is of environmental degradation. Few individuals outside the industry are aware of modern mining practices and associated business, environmental, and public policy issues (highlighted in Appendix A) or of how mining companies are responding to today's environmental challenges

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The extraction of ore from underground or surface mines is but one stage in a complicated and time-consuming process of producing minerals. A mine is born through exploration and mine development. This is followed by mining and beneficiation, and ends with mine closure and rehabilitation. A mining company must undertake all mining activities to be viable and competitive. It must adhere to a comprehensive set of rules of regulations

Most states have comprehensive environmental regulations for the mining industry. Federal regulations aimed directly at the mining industry have not yet been put into a place, but broad-based statutes such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and numerous others apply to mining activities. Further, the federal government has been addressing the cleanup of historic mine wastes through its Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation,

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

and Liability Act (CERCLA, otherwise known as Superfund). More recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has used CERCLA to address active mining operations. There is no evidence that this attention from the general public or the regulators will diminish, and mining companies in the United States can expect an ever-increasing level of scrutiny and control over their operations

Proper concern and regard for the environment is one of the fundamental elements of any successful business strategy. Given the increasing level of attention to environmental issues in the mining business, it is even more critical today, as illustrated by the experience of Kennecott Corporation. Kennecott Corporation—a wholly owned subsidiary of RTZ, PLC, the largest mining company in the world—manages mining operations and exploration activities across North America, including several low-sulfur coal mines in the Powder River Basin, precious metals mines in the Southeastern and Western United States, and copper mines in Wisconsin and Utah. Kennecott is best known for its Bingham Canyon copper mine near Salt Lake City, which generates one-sixth of the total U.S. copper production. Kennecott's environmental strategy is based on an environmental policy that builds from a foundation of compliance with the legal, regulatory, and consent requirements of the countries and localities in which it operates. The firm's environmental policy attempts to strike a balance between society's need for metals and an environmentally sound approach to operations

In general, the company's environmental policy dictates that its operations go beyond simply meeting current regulatory standards. The operations must exemplify best contemporary practice for the minimization and, where feasible, elimination of adverse environmental effects. The company does so by

Kennecott's environmental policy is administered by the vice president of environmental affairs whose responsibilities, with the cooperation and support of the other departments within the company, are the following:

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

As the flagship of Kennecott's operations, Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC) provides as good example of this environmental strategy in action in a large mining operation. KUC occupies over 92,000 acres in the Oquirrh Mountains just west of Salt Lake City. Operations include the Bingham Canyon Mine, the Copperton and North Concentrators, the Magna Tailings Impoundment, the Garfield Smelter and Refinery, the Utah Power Plant, and miscellaneous support facilities (Figure 1 ). KUC produces over 300,000 tons of copper, 500,000 ounces

of gold, and 4 million ounces of silver annually with a gross market value exceeding $800 million. KUC is in the midst of a major modernization program representing an investment of nearly $2 billion. When complete, the program will ensure that KUC remains one of the world's cleanest and most efficient copper producers well into the next century. Environmental considerations are an integral part of the modernization program. In addition to designing modernized operating facilities to achieve very high levels of operating efficiency and environmental control, the modernization program includes the cleanup of historic waste sites

Accompanying the modernization program are routine efforts to improve environmental performance in many areas, such as employee and community education, hazard elimination (e.g., elimination of underground storage tanks and polychlorinated biphenyl compounds), substitution of environmentally sound products (e.g., detergents for chlorinated solvent cleaning solutions), and extensive waste-minimization and recycling efforts. In all areas, Kennecott is attempting to stay ahead of the regulatory agencies in determining the pace and priorities of the cleanup program

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

The first $400 million component of the modernization program, completed in 1988, included in-pit ore crushing and new grinding and flotation facilities north of Copperton near the mouth of Bingham Canyon. Transportation improvements included a 5-mile ore conveyor system and the installation of three pipelines to replace the outdated railroad ore and waste rock haulage system. The project incorporated some of the largest state-of-the-art crushing, conveying, grinding, flotation, and filtration equipment available in the industry. In 1992, the first stage of the modernization program was supplemented with the construction of the fourth grinding line at Copperton. Along with several other improvements, this program represented an additional investment of over $200 million

The modernization of the Bingham Canyon Mine allows KUC to produce nearly 152,000 tons of ore per day. An equivalent amount of waste rock is removed from the mine each day. Ore and waste rock are transported within the pit to the adjacent waste rock disposal areas by haul trucks with capacities as large as 240 tons. About 80 percent of the ore is hauled to the in-pit crusher and then conveyed to the Copperton Concentration for grinding and flotation. The remaining ore is loaded on rail cars for transport to the older North Concentrator. Tailings (the sandy residue left after metals are stripped from ore) are delivered by gravity pipeline from the Copperton Concentrator to a 5,700-acre storage impoundment located 12 miles to the north along the shore of the Great Salt Lake. Concentrate slurry is piped nearly 18 miles from Copperton to the Garfield Smelter

The modernization program at the mine and concentrators improves environmental performance primarily by making the operations among the most efficient in the world. In this regard, the modernization represents as win-win situation in which operating considerations are entirely compatible with environmental protection and improvement. Such energy-efficient operations achieve the highly desirable goal of both direct and indirect pollution prevention. Water conservation and recycling were designed as integral parts of the modernization effort. As plans move forward for developing additional tailings storage capacity, environmental considerations are playing a major role in site identification, selection, and design, and the acquisition of permits for the sites

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

In March 1992, Kennecott announced plans to complete the modernization of its operating facilities with the construction of state-of-the-art smelting and refining facilities. This component of the modernization program represents an investment of $880 million, making it the largest private investment ever undertaken in Utah. The most dramatic environmental improvement will come with the reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions from the current level of about 3,700

pounds per hour to 200 pounds per hour. Of the sulfur contained in the concentrate feed, 99.9 percent will be captured, compared with the current, very respectable capture efficiency of about 93 percent. This translates to a sulfur dioxide emission rate of about 6 pounds per ton of copper produced, which is lower than the world's cleanest smelters now operating in Japan. These improvements will be achieved even though the smelting capacity will nearly double, enabling the modernized smelter to handle all of the concentrate produced from the Bingham Canyon Mine

Water usage will be reduced fourfold through an extensive recycling program. Pollution prevention, workplace safety and hygiene, and waste minimization are being incorporated into all aspects of the design. The smelter will generate 85 percent of its own electrical energy through steam recovery from the furnace gases and emission-control equipment, eliminating the need to burn additional fossil fuel to provide power. The new facility will require only 25 percent of the electrical power and natural gas now used to produced copper

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

The refinery modernization will improve plantwide efficiency, including energy efficiency. For example, the existing direct-current electrical system will be replaced by motor-generator sets with high-capacity solid state rectifiers. An ion exchange system will be added to control impurities, and the precious-metals refinery will be replaced with a simpler, faster hydrometallurgical process. The materials handling system will be updated to simplify and mechanize the flow of work

Waste generated from the existing smelting and refining process consists of weak acid from smelter off-gas scrubbing, flue dust, and electrolyte bleed from the refinery. All of these materials will be processed in a new hydrometallurical plant to recover valuable products, thereby maximizing resource recovery while minimizing the amount of waste that will require off-site disposal. The existing wastewater treatment plant and sludge storage ponds will become obsolete and will be reclaimed. The smelter modernization program also includes plans to segregate storm water from process waters, reducing water management problems and once again allowing the natural storm flows drainages above the smelter to enter the Great Salt Lake

The KUC property has a long history of mining activities dating to the 1860s, when the first lead, zinc, silver, and gold mining began in Bingham Canyon. Because the level of attention given to environmental matters in those early periods was not as great as today, there is a legacy of historic waste sites at and around KUC. The historic waste sites are primarily contaminated with waste rock, tailings, sludges, and other mining waste products

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

spent to remedy problems at historic sites, and several of the cleanup efforts are among the largest such projects ever undertaken. At the same time, Kennecott is working closely with the EPA and State of Utah Department of Environmental Quality to use nontraditional regulatory frameworks to oversee these voluntary cleanup efforts

One of the first facilities to be addressed was the leach-water handling system. Acidic metals bearing leach waters are collected at the base of the waste-rock disposal areas and are processed to recover the dissolved copper. The barren leach water is then returned to the top of the waste rock disposal areas, where it is applied to leach additional metals from the rock. In the early days of mining, this acidic leach water was simply allowed to flow down Bingham Creek. Reservoirs and holding basins were constructed in the early 1900s to begin to recover metals, and flow down Bingham Creek was terminated in the 1930s. Additional leach collection system improvements were made through the years, culminating in the construction of the Large Bingham Creek Reservoir in 1965. The reservoir held storm waters as well as leach waters. Although the base of this reservoir was constructed of low-permeability soils, it nevertheless contributed contaminants to the local groundwater system

When Kennecott realized the seriousness of the groundwater problem, it constructed the Small Bingham Creek Reservoir to serve as the leach-water surge basin. The Small Bingham Creek Reservoir is a double-lined impoundment equipped with leak detection and groundwater monitoring systems. It was completed and placed in service in 1990 at a cost of $13.5 million. Utah issued a groundwater discharge permit for the Small Bingham Creek Reservoir in 1992

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

Once the Small Bingham Creek Reservoir was placed in service, Kennecott began the cleanup of the Large Bingham Creek Reservoir. This project consisted of removing over 3 million cubic yards of sludges, tailings, and contaminated soils; segmenting and reshaping the basin; installing a state-of-the-art lining system; and upgrading the water-handling systems. The excavation work has been completed, and the sludge and tailings have been relocated to the Bingham Canyon Mine waste-rock disposal areas. The acid-contaminated soils were treated with locally obtained soils with a high calcium carbonate content, and the neutralized soils are being reused for reclamation efforts. The relocation and reclamation activities have been married with a demonstration project examining approaches to final reclamation of waste-rock disposal areas

The Large Bingham Creek Reservoir has been divided into two major segments—zone 1 and zone 2—by construction of an intermediate dike. Zone 1 has been lined with compacted clay, a lower 60-mil high density polyethylene (HOPE) liner, a leak detection and collection layer, and an upper 80-mil HDPE liner. The liner system incorporates never-before-used electrically conductive layers for liner integrity inspection and leak detection. The sludge removal and lining projects collectively will cost in excess of $40 million

of improved cutoff walls to intercept surface and subsurface leach-water flow. Each of the 22 drainages leading from the waste-rock disposal areas is being carefully studied to ensure that the geohydrologic system is well understood. Then alluvium is stripped from the drainage at the base of the waste rock. Cutoff walls keyed into competent, low-permeability bedrock are constructed to capture leach waters. These leach waters are then collected in a series of pipes and lined canals for conveyance to the copper precipitation plant. The barren waters from the precipitation plant are returned to the waste-rock disposal areas. Kennecott is beginning to experiment with wetland systems to create passive treatment mechanisms to handle excess acid-contaminated waters. The cost of the improvements to the leach-water collection system will exceed $28 million

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

Major cleanup projects are also under way in the Bingham Creek drainage downstream from the mouth of Bingham Canyon. During the lead-zinc-silver mining era of the 1800s, tailings containing high concentrations of lead and arsenic were discharged into Bingham Creek. These tailings washed down stream to the end of Bingham Creek in the center of Salt Lake Valley. Many areas along the lower reaches of Bingham Creek have now been developed to accommodate the growing population of the region, and resident now may come in direct contact with these tailings

Although Kennecott did not generate these mine wastes, it owns much of the land along Bingham Creek on which the tailings reside, and the companies that generated the wastes are almost all defunct. Kennecott has undertaken several voluntary efforts to assist with the cleanup of these lead tailings, including the construction of a waste repository on its property to hold the tailings. The cleanup of Bingham Creek is continuing this year with the participation of Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), the only other viable responsible party. ARCO inherited liability for these tailings through their purchase of Anaconda. Kennecott and ARCO are sponsoring a health study in the Bingham Creek area to demonstrate that cleanup of very low levels of contamination are not necessary, given the low bioavailability of the lead in the tailings. The Bingham Creek lead tailings removal efforts will cost nearly $40 million

Kennecott received an Earth Day award for the cleanup of waste-rock containing lead and arsenic from the Butterfield Creek drainage at the south end of KUC. This waste rock was generated during the construction by a now-defunct mining company of a drainage tunnel. Nearly 900,000 cubic yards of waste rock were placed along Butterfield Creek in unprotected areas and were actively eroding into the stream. Butterfield Creek is used for irrigation, and Butterfield Canyon is a popular recreational area for the public, so there was some cause for concern. Kennecott excavated the waste rock and relocated it to an engineered repository at the base of the Bingham Canyon Mine waste rock disposal area. The project also included the relocation of a roadway, the stream, and a natural-gas pipeline. The cost of the project approached $5 million. The project was completed, and Butterfield Canyon was restored to its natural condition

environmental strategies in the mining industry: one

Another environmental cleanup of historic wastes was completed in the Lark area, immediately east of the Bingham Canyon Mine. This project consisted of the relocation of over 1.7 million cubic yards of potentially acid-generating waste rock and the reclamation of nearly 600 acres of tailings deposits. The waste-rock was transported to the Bingham Canyon Mine waste rock disposal areas (behind the leach-water collection system). Tailings were sampled and "hot spots" containing high concentrations of lead were excavated and placed in an engineered, state-approved waste repository. The remainder of the tailings contain relatively low concentrations of metals and were reclaimed by capping with soils and revegetation. The Lark project also included removal of asbestos from buildings in the area as well as the demolition of derelict structures. The cost of the Lark-area work was nearly $15 million

These and many other major and minor environmental cleanup projects at KUC are being conducted on an expedited basis by Kennecott in advance of any formal agreements with EPA or the State of Utah. Although there is a risk that Kennecott's responses to these environmental problems will not be acceptable to the regulators, Kennecott is proceeding as rapidly as possible to implement the solutions it believes are appropriate. In all cases, Kennecott informs the regulators before work begins and provides for regular inspections of the work by the regulators and stakeholders from the local communities. Kennecott has incorporated reasonable agency and stakeholder suggestions into the cleanup programs. On a practical level, Kennecott is proceeding so quickly that the agencies are having a hard time keeping up. For example, for several of the cleanup projects described above, work was well under way before legally enforceable administrative agreements were signed with EPA to oversee the work. Fortunately, EPA technical representatives were able to conduct site inspection even without legal agreements

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