Mining contractor Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) has published an article on its website outlining the importance of considering sustainability during project planning and design.
The article details the company’s ‘Sustainability in Design Criteria’ document, which examines the issue in the context of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion.
According to SKM, project owners and stakeholders typically focus on managing identified social and environmental impacts and complying with regulations.
“Unfortunately, opportunities to protect and enhance the environment and communities are frequently overlooked, or not taken full advantage of,” the company said.
“The most effective time to identify and respond to such opportunities is during a project’s planning and design phases.
“The challenge is to integrate sustainability considerations as an element of design decision making.”
SKM said the mining industry has broadly accepted that the proactive management of social and environmental risks can provide long term benefits for a business
Olympic Dam, located in South Australia, is Australia’s largest underground mine and contains the world’s largest uranium deposit and the fourth largest copper and gold deposits.
BHP Billiton is planning to expand the mine to more than triple its current production capacity by developing it into an open pit operation.
According to SKM, BHP Billiton recognised the importance of a decision making framework to help engineers and program managers to address sustainability as a component of design criteria.
“A team comprising BHP Billiton and SKM sustainability practitioners was assembled to facilitate the implementation of BHP Billiton’s corporate environmental and social responsibility policies at the project level,” SKM said.
“They would integrate sustainability into the established engineering process.”
While not a ‘one-stop-shop’ solution to all sustainability issues, SKM said the document is a good example of the benefits of such planning early in a project’s design phase.
The article can be accessed here.