The development and construction phase of a mining project is as critical a stage of a mine’s life cycle as any other and can often determine how sustainable the operational phase will be. It is associated with the mine preparation work and infrastructure required to support an operating mine. Typically, there is a considerable amount of development required before operational production take place.
Although, it is possible to have multiple phases within the development depending on production requirements and/or permitting process, mine development, when associated with mining cycle, refers to the pre-operational phase of the mine.
The key activities of this stage can be grouped as following:
Development of a mine site includes:
- Preparation work required for extracting ore for commercial production (e.g. access roads, drainage, dewatering, etc.);
- Stripping or overburden removal (open pit);
- Underground access to the deposit (e.g. underground access – adits, declines and shafts; ventilation shafts);
- Handling of waste rock, low-grade and other spoils;
- Stockpile preparation;
Construction associated with Greenfield mine sites includes:
- Power Supply (electricity, gas or diesel);
- Transportation infrastructure (e.g. ports, airstrips, rail, roads, etc.);
- Other utilities such as water and sewer;
- Telecommunications and lightning;
- Processing equipment (e.g. crusher, mills, silos, flotation cells, etc.);
- Supporting facilities (lunchroom, control room, workshops, offices, warehousing, other supporting buildings, etc.);
Construction in mining project creates significant and visible changes and impacts on the environment and community. This short-term stage requires the highest level of employment, which exceeds the longer-term workforce requirements. The influx of a construction workforce can provide economic benefits to the local community, and particularly local businesses, but it can also put pressure on housing and other local services and have a negative social impact on the community (Adapted from Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, 2011).
Whenever possible, mining companies try to avoid getting into the business of providing housing, public buildings, streets, schools, and playgrounds. The concept is to make every effort to utilize and expand existing facilities in nearby towns (Adapted from Bright and Payne, 1975).
Planning occurs at all stages of the mineral exploration life cycle but is a particular focus during the development stage, which focuses on formal plans for project construction, operation and, finally, closure and reclamation, as part of the required environmental assessment and subsequent permitting processes. Construction proceeds after government approval and can take several years to complete depending on the scope and location of the project. Mineral exploration continues during this phase and through production until the mineral deposit is mined out (Adapted from AMECBC, 2013).
A wide range of community consultations often take place during the mine development process, including:
- Public meetings and hearings;
- Open houses;
- Focus groups;
- Interviews; and
- Meetings and consultations related to environmental assessment and licence and permit applications;
Communities provide input and feedback on a proposed project during the consultations, raising issues and concerns and identifying potential impacts. Consultations allow communities to participate in a meaningful way and to experience a sense of ownership of the project. Community engagement activities should be a continual focus of senior management in this phase (Adapted from PWGSC, 2013 and Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, 2011).
It is not unusual that after initiating some mine development activities, work on a mine project is halted. Do you know the key reasons for delaying or postponing a mining project at this point?
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AMECBC “Development Mineral Exploration Life Cycle Advanced” Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. (2013).
Bright, J. and Payne, A. L., “Anatomy of a Mine” Surface Environment and Mining Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ogden, UT, USA. (1975).
PWGSC “Exploration and Mining Guide for Aboriginal Communities” Government of Canada, Public Works and Government Services, Ottawa, Canada. (2013).
Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, “ A Guide to Leading Practice Sustainable Development in Mining”, Australian Government, Continuing Opportunities Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) Program – 2010 Report, Canberra, Australia. (2011).
Feature: Oyu Tolgoi project – Copper and Gold Mine in South Gobi. Construction of Shaft #2. Author: Brücke-Osteuropa
Figure 1: A Marion 8200 working to strip overburden at an opencut coal mine. Author: Provided by Peabody Energy
Figure 2: Construction of rail track in Łódź. Author: Darekm135
Figure 3: Krupp coal stacker at RTCA Kestrel Mine, Queensland. Author: Bernard S. Jansen