October 2014

Inside the Chinese Green Mining standard

The Fankou mine has undergone major changes in recent years

By Lu Jing

Special Report: China

To prevent and reverse the destruction of the environment that has occurred in the past due to mining, the Chinese government came up with a new strategy to help create a more resource-conserving and environmentally-friendly society. The Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources conceived the Green Mining Standard in 2007. The following year, the National Mineral Resource Program was compiled and the Guidance to Implement the National Mineral Resource Program, Develop Green Mining and Construct a Green Mine was issued in 2010, establishing a defined Green Mining Standard.

The standard assesses nine aspects of an operation: mining legally, good practices, using all resources efficiently, technological innovation, reducing waste release, environmental protection, reclamation, harmonious community relationship and good enterprise culture.

The Fankou mine, owned by Shenzhen Zhongjin Lingnan Nonfemet Co. Ltd., is one of the biggest lead-zinc-silver producers in Asia. Fankou began its commercial production in the 1960s and the facility, located in Guangdong Province, earned green mine certification in 2012.

In order to satisfy the national standards, as well as its own goals, Fankou has taken numerous actions, all of which are directed by three key drivers:

1. Establishing a good management system, which is the basis of a good operational practice.

Fankou continually improves its management system to match its technological and industrial development.

2. Paying increased attention to advanced technology, techniques and facilities.

These are the tools needed to make green mining a reality. Green mining is a general concept that implicates almost every area of a mine operation, especially technology and technical improvements. For example, by using vertical crater retreat, and panel mechanized mid-longhole mining methods, whole-tailings filling, and the foamed mortar backfill method for mining, the efficiency of mineral resource exploitation and tailings disposal are increased. In addition the mine saves power by using the electrical frequency conversion in mining and ore processing operations, and by using energy-efficient lighting. Curtain grouting is used as a water management technique, which prevents about 50 per cent of the underground water from entering the mine in the first place. Fankou has bought automated equipment from Germany, Finland, the United States and Canada to improve productivity and safety.

3. Persisting in environmental protection.

The mine attaches importance to environmental management and uses it as a basic guideline for the whole mining operation. Fankou achieved the ISO 14001 environmental management standard in 2012 and was awarded the Guangdong provincial “Environmental Integrity Green Brand Enterprise.”

Because of the environmental protection and mine reclamation initiatives, pollution issues have been improving. Conflicts between the mine and the community, which stem mainly from pollution, are also diminishing.

Another subsidiary of Zhongjin Lingnan Nonfemet, located in Guangxi Province, is currently working towards the national “Green Mine” certificate. But different mines face unique challenges. For Fankou, the biggest difficulty was waste water recycling and tailings disposal, while for the mine in Guangxi Province, it is mineral recovery rate improvement.

The Green Mining certification is voluntary, rather than compulsory, for all mines in China, which means deciding whether or not to become a green mine depends on individual circumstances. But it is clear that in China, mines of a considerable scale are motivated to achieve the new standard; 459 mines have been certified since 2010. Green mining increases an enterprise’s spending. Therefore, it is crucial that companies balance the cost of investment at present with the potential for production in the future, and consider how their individual expenses will correspond with improvements in the environment. Of course, this is related to other concepts, such as corporate social responsibility and corporate citizenship. Potential government assistance also plays a very important role in enterprises’ consideration of adopting green mining standards. For example, different provinces in China have issued their own policies to give some financial support (in the form of allowances or awards) to encourage mines to improve their facility, technology in mining or tailings storage. In some places, the local governments also give certain tax deductions when a mine spends on improving its facility or technology. It has been proven here that government financial support is a great stimulus for mining companies in achieving higher environmental performance.

Lu Jing is the deputy general manager of international business at Shenzhen Zhongjin Lingnan Nonfemet Co. Ltd. She has 10 years of experience in the company, previously in HR management, moving to managing overseas investments in 2010. She also has experience working in the company’s subsidiaries in Australia and the Dominican Republic. She holds a PhD in management.

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