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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Integration of sustainability into the mine design process Odell, Carol Jane


With the growing worldwide interest in corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, the mining industry is under increasing pressure to design, operate and close mining operations in accordance with the principles of sustainable societies This thesis investigates the hypothesis that a holistic mine design process, which integrates social, environmental and institutional criteria on an equal footing with the geological, engineering and economic criteria traditionally considered, can improve the sustainability outcomes of a mine. The research generated a composite case study using borehole data and a geological model from a North American porphyry copper deposit and environmental, social and institutional data from the Peruvian Andes. The guidelines for the incorporation of sustainability concerns into engineering practice produced by the Association o f Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC), were then applied to the case study to assess 4 mine design scenarios for the mineral deposit at the scoping level using the multi-criteria assessment methodology. In all areas: economic, engineering, geological, environmental , social and institutional; profiling tools were located which enabled the production of holistic baseline data. Economic and environmental predictive tools appeared adequate for holistic design with minor modifications. Social predictive tools produced useful insights into impacts requiring further analysis. These tools require participatory assessment, and can be improved by using tools which assess specific community characteristics. Institutional predictive tools were found to be the least adequate, although this is an area which is undergoing rapid development. Overall the research provided useful insights into sustainability issues for the case study and alternative designs which might increase benefits and mitigate impacts. It also demonstrated the importance of the decision structuring step to producing useful modeling outcomes. The results suggested that certain sustainability issues may be better incorporated into corporate level strategy rather than project level design, although both corporate and project level attention to sustainability are critical to producing outcomes. The prototype tools developed showed considerable promise for integrating sustainability concerns into the mine design process, which with further refinement and practical application could develop into integrated decision support tools for holistic mine design.

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