Under fire as never before for the social and environmental destruction it causes, the world’s dirtiest industry is trying to come clean
As industries go, mining is among the most destructive to nature and humans, and one of the most hazardous for employees. Besides the noise, mess and inherent risk of water and soil contamination and erosion from every day operations, there are the periodic large-scale accidents and resulting environmental and human damage that all add up to make mines unpopular neighbours.
At the same time, mines provide necessary materials and often much-needed jobs and infrastructure. And mining companies are recognising in greater numbers the need to change the way they operate or continue to face opposition from local and environmental groups. With the price of minerals dropping, and coal being shunned by many investors as dirty, mining companies are working more directly with communities, government officials and employees to keep them informed, involved and safe on the job, minimise environmental risks and respond to consumer demand for responsibly mined materials.
“We are trying to break the idea of a dirty, noisy industry,” says Greg Lilleyman, group executive, innovation and technology, for Rio Tinto, the Australian mining giant. “We are looking...