The mining industry in Guyana is principally governed by the Mining Act, No. 20 of 1989 (the Mining Act), enacted in 1991. The implementation of the Mining Act is supported by Mining Regulations (1979) which outline provisions related to the prospecting for, and mining of, metals, minerals and precious stones; and the regulation of their transport.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Environmental Protection Act, Cap 20:05, has a mandate to take necessary steps for the management, conservation, protection and improvement of the environment. In executing the functions under the Act, the EPA has:
* Applied the Environmental Authorisation process to all projects
* Developed regulations, strategies, action plans and guidelines
* Conducted awareness and capacity-building for miners
Who needs an Environmental Authorisation?
Any person wishing to undertake an activity that may have an environmental impact must apply for Environmental Authorisation from the EPA.
In this week’s article, we will examine environmental guidelines for mining when it comes to waste management and disposal.
Scope of the guidelines
Scope refers to a code of practice that is applied to gold- and diamond-mining operations ranging from small scale to medium scale. It addresses mining waste, hazardous waste, and household waste. Hazardous waste includes petroleum products and other chemicals, materials labelled as hazardous, and those with hazardous characteristics (corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive).
Principles and standards of practice
Waste management and disposal should be addressed in the preliminary stages of mine-planning. The projected types and volumes of waste guide the development of a Waste Management Plan. Each category of mine waste should be tracked from source to disposal.
The general types of waste in
small- and medium-scale operations:
* Top soil and overburden;
* Waste rock;
* Hazardous wastes; and
* Domestic wastes.
The hierarchy of waste management practices should be applied to the management of all materials used at a mine. In order of preference, options selected should be:
* Waste avoidance: practices that prevent the generation of waste altogether;
* Waste reduction: practices that reduce waste;
* Waste reuse: direct reuse of waste materials for the same grade of use;
* Waste recycling or reclamation: using valuable components of waste in other processes;
* Waste treatment: to reduce hazard or nuisance, preferably at the site of generation; and
* Waste disposal.
Ensure that waste dumps are adequately located, designed, managed and reclaimed.
Standards of practice
* Locate waste dumps away from surface waters, springs, seeps and wetlands (swamps and marshes);
* Take preventive measures to minimise water and wind erosion;
* Enhance the long-term mass stability of a dump by locating and constructing it so that the potential of failure is minimised;
* Characterise the waste material prior to construction of the dump;
* Take preventive measures to avoid ARD generation;
* Avoid ARD (acid rock drainage) being dispersed into the environment; and
* Create appropriate conditions for rapid revegetation after mining has ceased.
All hazardous material must be packaged appropriately, and disposed of at approved facilities or onsite locations.
The hazardous substance inventory should have the Material Data and Safety Sheet (MSDS) and names of all the chemicals on-site, including:
* The chemical’s name;
* Typical quantities maintained at the site;
* Operating procedures incorporating handling precautions, storage requirements, safety equipment needed, training required; and
* Specific instructions for clean-up of spills.
Waste reduction, reuse, sorting and recycling should be strongly emphasised at the mine site, in order to minimise waste generation and reduce management and disposal costs. As much as possible, vegetation from de-bushing should be used for constructing facilities and equipment such as tables and other furniture, posts, sediment collection structures (eg brush barrier), soil stabilisation structures, etc. The amount of vegetation from debushing that is not used should be kept to a minimum.
Cleared vegetation that is not used should be piled up and burnt.
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