Comparative Environmental Standards - Deep Mine and Opencast
AUTHOR: Stephen M. Foster
DATE: February 2001
Environmental legislation is developing to meet the needs of environmentally conscious governments and the expectations of an environmentally aware public. As a consequence, the coal mining industry has to operate within an increasingly stringent regulatory environment. In Canada and Australia the current legislative focus is land rights and the claims of indigenous populations whilst the primary focus of European legislation is increasingly prescriptive development controls for new and existing mines, together with measures aimed at mitigation of environmental damage from abandoned coal mines. Environmental regulations and standards are similar in all ten countries included in this review. However, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa and Venezuela have yet to develop the institutional capacity to fully implement, monitor and enforce national and international legislation. In Australia, North America and Europe there has been a clear trend away from "end-of-pipe" emissions limits to the establishment of ambient standards that allow for consideration of cumulative and variable impacts of a range of industrial activities. It is anticipated that this trend will be followed by developing nations over the next ten years. Regulatory standards for coal mine effluent discharges vary within a relatively small range.
Ambient air quality standards for PM10 emissions are similar in all countries except Colombia which adopts a standard which is twice the international average. In Australia, the coal mining industry is essentially exempt from the waste licensing requirements whilst in Europe there are moves to bring some or all mine waste disposal activities under the requirements of the Landfill Directive which will outlaw some forms of disposal and add a significant cost to others. The progressive adoption of ambient environmental standards will mean that mining operations will become increasingly susceptible to both climatic variation and the activities of their neighbours. There are now considerable opportunities to consider the role of emerging environmental and information technologies to promote environmentally and economically sustainable coal mining.