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Resolving the conflict between mining and sustainability

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David ManningORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Mining is essential for human health and prosperity, and is increasing as the global population grows. The need for minerals appears to conflict with what is commonly understood as ‘sustainability’, as geological resources are non-renewable on a human timescale. However, the Brundtland definition of sustainability includes the concept of ‘needs’, implying that there has to be a balanced approach that considers poverty alleviation. It identifies the three pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental.In the UK, mining has a legacy extending back over 6000 years. The approach taken to sustainability will be illustrated by 3 examples from northern England. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the London Lead Company was directed by members of the Religious Society of Friends, and had social sustainability as a high priority, building a village with facilities to promote physical, mental and spiritual health amongst the mining community. The legacy of this company’s mining operations on river water pollution is currently a major problem, reflecting its lack of knowledge of geochemistry. Potash mining started in North Yorkshire in the 1960s, and now there are plans for a new potash mine within the North York Moors National Park. Over 1 km deep, the new mine is planned to be as invisible as possible. Open pit coal mining takes place as part of a construction operation in city centre Newcastle, and in nearby rural locations. Operators take great care to minimize their impact on local populations, adapting equipment and making sure operations are timed to minimize disturbance.In the UK, one key characteristic of a successful mining operation is that it engages in dialogue with the local community. It is important to involve the community right from the start of planning a mine, even before its location has been finalized. Operators typically have a community fund, and this can be approached by local people to pay for resources that benefit the community, such as sports equipment and facilities. Mining companies need to have a clear plan for restoration, with dates, and some take the opportunity to plan major works of public art as a way of enriching the community with a legacy that can generate income through tourism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Manning DAC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Environmental Research

Year: 2014

Volume: 36

Issue: 1

Pages: 3-12

Print publication date: 01/04/2014

Online publication date: 10/02/2014

Acceptance date: 28/08/2013

Date deposited: 06/11/2015

ISSN (print): 2287-0741

ISSN (electronic): 2287-075X

Publisher: Chulalongkorn University


DOI: 10.14456/aer.2014.2


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