OH&S Products

Environmentally sustainable blasting

Never before has the extractive industry been so aware of its obligations to shareholders, government bodies and the community. In the past, consideration of the environmental impact has been ad hoc amongst participants in the industry, with some excelling and some hiding their heads in the sand. It is challenge for companies with larger footprints and profiles to strike a balance with multiple competing requirements. It is also a challenge for the industry as a whole as it has a diverse range of participants with varied training and operational backgrounds. This has been amplified in recent years with the personnel drain to the mining industry.

Environment protection, climate change and sustainable growth are all phases that the extractive industry is more acutely aware of in its responsibilities towards environmental management and being part of the community. Although the community only sees the local part of the increasingly globalised nature of our industry, it is the responsibility of all parts of the industry to work towards national and global goals.

The days of cutting corners in environmental management or sustainable growth in one area and headlining projects with the opposite objective at another are gone. Communication and information flows amongst those overseeing the extractive industry do not allow this to occur and the focus from action groups and legislators is increasing daily. Local quarries, being the most visible part of the industry, must not only meet existing operational criteria but exceed it. In Australia, standards of operation must be world class for the industry to have long term viability. This applies to all industry participants, including suppliers, consultants and operators no matter their size, input or visibility.

Blasting often generates an emotional response in the community. Effects of blasting do not, unfortunately, stop at the extraction lease boundary. Legislation controlling the industry has evolved to keep pace with technological change and community expectations. This is where the technology and knowledge base of suppliers can assist the industry in dealing with the challenge of meeting stakeholder expectations. The influence of energy from the drill and blast process outside of the immediate blast area has become as important as the breakage and movement within the blast area in most quarry sites.  

Maxam is increasingly involved in activities outside of the pure breakage of rock with explosives. Specialised advice is required in the increasingly difficult process of obtaining and maintaining approvals for extraction. One area where this is applicable is the area of final walls and slopes that are visible to local communities. The safety of walls is the major priority, but the visual appearance and/or ability to quickly rehabilitate these final walls is increasingly common. The primary aim of designs of blasts in quarries is no longer just to get the most rock out and deal with the final pit slope later. Most operating pits need to have evidence of progressive rehabilitation of their sites, otherwise they will forfeit bonds or face increasingly larger fines.

Protection of areas of national significance like Aboriginal heritage sites, natural rock structures and heritage buildings are also of community importance. These factors have influenced a large part of the mining community for the last few decades and increasingly affect quarry sites now, especially as older leases and extractive agreements are renewed or altered. This is compounded by the compliance limits imposed on sites, with the encroachment of the wider community on existing sites or proposed extensions of existing pits.  

We must all contribute to maximising sustainable development benefits and mitigate the impacts of extractive activities on the economic, environmental and social needs of surrounding communities. Improvements in fragmentation and digging capability by the maximisation of productivity from blasting can help reduce overall carbon outputs by decreasing the crushing and processing required from rock material downstream. Reduction in carbon outputs will assist customers with meeting the industry?s potential liabilities under proposed government legislation.

Maxam is aware of the industry?s trends and flows and has an active internal process of innovation to meet these requirements. Apart from providing technical advice and services to its customers, Maxam is looking at its own internal processes. ISO 14001 is an important step in this process of backing the extractive industry?s efforts to lessen its carbon footprint. Major manufacturing sites have in 2009 been certified under ISO 14001, with other sites to follow in the coming year.

Ongoing active environmental management within Maxam offsets our impact on the environment globally. Maxam Australia, as part of Maxam International, benefits from these combined efforts. Maxam is part owner-operator of wind fields that offset the electricity usage of all Maxam activities in Spain. Maxam also has a large reforestation project in Europe that offsets all the CO2 emissions of the Maxam Group. Maxam also has an active development project in biodiesel manufacture.

Maxam exercises its social corporate responsibility by supporting local activities and organisations like Clean Up Australia Day and  the Country Fire Association in Victoria. Maxam values the education and welfare of children in local communities where its activities are conducted. Projects such as APORTA in South America assist disadvantaged children with education and basic welfare items. Maxam has a firm commitment to respect and preserve nature and a clear involvement with sustainable development in order to contribute to the progress of the society in which we live and to positively shape the world that surrounds us.

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