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Follow the Road of Developing Green Mining Industry

2000-11-03author:Shou Jiahuasource:

  As viewed from the economic structure and regional development of China, the west ern region will certainly become a substitute region of energy resources and min eral materials of China in the 21st century. This is not only because the western region has abundant mineral resources which are developed and utilized at a low level and so has great ore potential, but also due to the situation that most mi nes in the eastern region which have supported China's industrial development fo r more than half a century are suffering severe shortages of reserve resources a nd are going to change the line of production or close up and that mining cities are about to change their patterns. When we are standing on the threshhold of th e new millennium before straddling it, however, we cannot very well avoid reviewin g and facing calmly the history of mining development, 51 years China has gone th rough and more than 100 year the world has gone through, and reviewing the experi ence and lessons in imbalance between industrial civilization and ecological env ironment. What should we base ourselves on in the large-scale western region deve lopment?What road should we follow in mining industry development in the wester n region?To answer these questions, we must base ourselves on two fundamental poin ts:first, proceeding from the situation as a whole, it is necessary to develop min eral resources in the western region:this is China's condition;second, it is nece ssary to protect the fragile ecology in the western region:this is a national po licy. 

  I. Problems and Challenges

  The western region of China is characterized by abundant mineral resources, favou rable ore-forming conditions and great potential of resources. According to the s tatistics in the western region 123 minerals have explored reserves, the retained reserves of more than 20 minerals such as natural gas, high-grade copper ore, hig h-grade phosphate rock, high-grade lead-zinc and potash account for over 50% of t he national total reserves, and the reserves of another 9 minerals make up 33 to 59% of the national total.

  This shows China's great resource advantages and poten tial. The western region will become a base of energy resources and mineral mater ials of China in the 21st century. 

  The development of mineral resources in the western region has strongly supporte d the development of regional economies. The output value of the mining industry of the western region accounts for 18. 7% of its total industrial output value, an d the output values of the mining industry of Qinghai Province and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region both take up more than 55% of their total industrial out put values and 15% of the gross domestic products(GDP) of the province and auton o mous region. The establishment of a number of large mining bases and large mine e nterprises has accelerated the courses of industrailization and urbanization and given an impetus to the rapid development of a number of related industries.  

  However, while great achievements are being scored in the mining industry, its neg ative influence on the ecological environment is also increasing daily and has b ecome important constraints on the development of resources and sustainable econ omic and social development in the western region. The influence is most sharply manifested in the following major aspects:first, the extensive development of res ources has brought about tremendous waste of resources;second, disordered develop m ent of resources has resulted in damage to vegetation and ecology, thus causing s oil erosion;third, the mining, dressing and smelting techniques are relatively bac kward, causing environmental pollution;fourth, funds invested are not enough to re habilitate the ecological environment after mining. 

  The implementation of the strategy of large-scale western region development, esp ecially large-scale construction of infrastructure facilities, calls for sufficie nt supply and powerful guarantee of mineral materials with mineral resources in the western region as the bulk part. Within the future ten years, China and even t he western region will enter the peak stage of industrialization and within the f uture 30 years China's population will reach a peak of 1. 6 billion;by then the d emands upon mineral resources will certainly attain the culmination. But the posi tion of China with regard to the guarantee degree of the available mineral reser ves is very serious. It is estimated that by 2020 only six of China's 40 stable m ineral commodities can meet the demand. Because of exhaustibility of mineral reso u rces and increase of production costs in mines of the eastern region of China, th e transfer of the mining industry development to the western region will be inev i table and it is imperative that the western region should become China's future important substitute region of mineral resources. How to solve the contradiction between the development of resources and environmental protection in the western region is a major problem facing us. To bring about coordinated development of resource exploitation and environmental protection, we need a completely new idea a and strategy of mining industry development and should seek for a way of ratio nal resource development and work out a series of relevant policies, law and regu lations. 

  Ⅱ. Strategy and Ideas

  A review of the course of development of international mining industry over the past 100-odd years shows us three models of development of mineral resources:mod el of "development first and environmental protection second", model of "resour ce development under strict environmental constraints" and model of " develop ment of overseas resources". The first model rapidly stimulates economic development despite the resulting damage to the environment and great economic costs. The les son is very bitter. The second model may effectively protect the environment but restrain the development of mining industry to different degrees, thus making th e market depressed. The third model may make up for demands on resources of the c ountry and get much economic benefit, but needs the guarantee of abundant funds. I n developing mineral resources in the western region of China we must neither ta ke the road of "development first and environmental protection second", which m eans an old road of accumulating the primitive capital at the expense of the env ironment, nor arbitrarily apply the model of "resource development under strict environmental constraints", which is a model of post-industrialization of develo ped countries. As to the model of "development of overseas resources", it will ta k e a long time to open up a way for the model. Therefore, the development of the we stern region must follow a road of coordinated development of resource exploitat ion and environmental protection, i. e. the road of developing"green mining indus try". 

  The so-called"green mining industry" means optimization of development of mine ral resources and minimization of the influence on the ecological environment. Th ere are three links for the realization of green mining industry:1. Through asses sments of the bearing capacity of the regional environment and the amount of dis turbance of the mine environment before development, set up an index system of th e environmental assessment and technical standards and stipulate a plan of green mining industry. 

  2. Through technological innovation and optimization of technological procedures, achieve only small disturbance, no poison and less pollution during mining, dressi ng and smelting operations.

  3. Through improvement of the mine environment and rehabilitation of the ecology, realize the minimization of environmental disturbance and optimization of ecolog ical rehabilitation. 

  The present scientific and technological levels and knowledge accumulation have laid a solid foundation for the implementation of the strategy of green mining i ndustry. 

  · In recent years breakthroughs have been made in the theory and practic e of assessments of the bearing capacity of the regional environment and disturb ance of the mine environment. The baseline standardization of regional geochemist ry has been carried out in some countries and the model of deposit geological en vironment has been applied in the mine environment assessment. 

  · Progress in science and technology has made it possible to achieve onl y small disturbance, no poison and less pollution during mining, dressing and smelt ing operations. For example, by using the "theory and technique of potential regu lation of sulphide ore floatation", the Qixia lead -zinc mine, Nanjing, has realiz e zero discharge of waste water of ore dressing in the mine and saved 60 to 90% of industrial water;by using the "new technique of colloid filling", the Jinchu an copper-nickel mine has basically achieve less pollution and no tails;a major breakthrough has been made in the technique of "underground in-situ solution mi ning" of copper polymetallic ore, thus making possible total utilization of reso urces and excavation without disturbing the surface ecological environment. 〖ZK〗 〗 

  · There are numerous case histories of successful pollution control and ecological rehabilitation of mines in China and abroad. For example, the Sanshanda o gold mine in jiaodong, Shandong Province, China, has become a "garden-style" mi ne through treating cyanogen-bearing polluted water and zero discharge, turning t ails into resources and rehabilitating the ecology. 

  Ⅲ. Counter-measures and Actions

  The implementation of the strategy of green mining industry calls for necessary measures and actions. 

  1. We will intensify the assessment of the bearing capacity of the regional geolo gical environment and investigation of the mine geological environment in the we stern region, determine the regional geochemical baseline, develop models of the d eposit geological environment, work out an index system of regional environmental assessment and establish and improve the plan of development of mining industry and protection of the ecological environment. This item may start immediately on the basis of comparisons of the information and data of the mine resources and environmental bearing capacity in the western region with those in the eastern r egion and is to be basically completed within two or three years. 

  2. We should increase investment in science and technology, stimulate technologica l innovation and apply new techniques of nonpoisonous and no tail dressing and z ero discharge of medium flow in dressing and smelting operations as well as new techniques of mining, dressing and smelting in mines with special environments(wh ich are marked by shortages of water and electric power, frigid climate and gobi deserts )in the western region, for example, the new technique of in -situ solutio n mining. Efforts should be made to tackle the problems relating to complex minin g, dressing and smelting techniques in China. The Government should attach importa nce to supporting these items and international cooperation should be strengthen ed. We will strive to make a breakthrough in the green dressing and smelting tech nologies of urgently needed minerals mined in superlarge deposits in the western region within 3 to 5 years to ensure that technical preparations will be made b efore the all - round development stage of the large-scale western region develo pment. 

  3. It is necessary to formulate and improve law and regulations in relation to mi neral resource development and eco-environmental protection, work out standards r elating to eco-environmental rehabilitation and environmental protection and est ablish and improve systems of protection, supervision and administration of the e co-environment and work out and perfect technical indexes and specifications abo ut the eco-environment. It is proposed that under the guidance of the law of the People's Republic of China on Environmental Protection, Environmental Reg ulations for the Development of Mineral Resources in the Western Region be formu l ated so as to stipulate and ensure that the development of mineral resources in the western regions will follow the road of green development. 

  4. Special funds of environmental protection and rehabilitation should be estab lished We will raise funds by means of raising the rate of retained profits gain ed through total uses of wastes of mineral resources, collecting the environment al rehabilitation fee for mining industry development and drawing some amount of compensation payable for loss or damage caused to mineral resources, so as to gu arantee the protection and rehabilitation the ecological environment.

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