Published in The ASIA Miner News, Saturday, 29 July 2017
By Dr Robin Branson PhD, MBA, BSc. (Hons) Director, Australian Industrial Ecology Network

IN the modern world of advanced economies, pretty much everything starts with some sort of mining. From time immemorial humans have used stuff dug, sucked or that oozed out of the ground. As economies develop, increasing amounts of resources are extracted from the Earth’s crust and they all have one feature in common: they are finite. Inevitably there will come a time when mining will be uneconomic, however potentially useful the material it might be. The corollary is that extraction cannot last forever. Even if that statement were not true, assuming it is would be wise.

Mining impacts the natural environment in which it occurs. The result may be permanently devastating, as at Mount Lyell in Tasmania or merely catastrophic as at Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea. Not all mines cause such disaster but even with stringent environmental regulation, mining can still significantly disrupt the natural environment and antagonise local communities. The controversies around coal seam gas and fracking are cases in point.

Two salient issues emerge from these comments: the indefinite, though finite availability of raw materials and protection of the natural environment. Industrial ecology (IE) addresses these and related issues.

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