Environmental Impacts and Health Aspects in the Mining Industry - A Comparative Study of the Mining and Extraction of Uranium, Copper and Gold
Examensarbete för masterexamen
This thesis work has analysed environmental impacts and health aspects in the mining industry of copper, uranium and gold with the aim of determining the relative performance, in a given set of parameters, of the uranium mining industry. A selection of fifteen active mining operations in Australia, Canada, Namibia, South Africa, and the United States of America constitute the subject of this study. The project includes detailed background information about mineral extraction methods, the investigated minerals and the mining operations together with descriptions of the general main health hazards and environmental impacts connected to mining. The mineral operations are investigated in a cradle to gate analysis for the year of activity of 2007 using the economic value of the product at the gate as functional unit. Primary data has been collected from environmental reports, company web pages, national databases and through personal contact with company representatives. The subsequent analysis examines the collected data from a resource consumption, human health and ecological consequences point of view. Using the Life Cycle Impact Assessment methodology of characterisation, primary data of environmental loads have been converted to a synoptic set of environmental impacts. For radiation and tailings issues, a more general approach is used to address the problem. Based on the collected data and the investigated parameters, the results indicate a presumptive relative disadvantageous result for the uranium mining industry in terms of health aspects but an apparent favourable relative result in terms of environmental impacts. Given the prerequisites of this study, it is not feasible to draw any unambiguous conclusions. Inabilities to do this are mainly related to inadequate data availability from mine sites (especially in areas concerning tailings management), and difficulties concerned with the relative valuation of specific performance parameters, in particular radiation issues. Further studies are recommended within tailings management issues, preferably performed at site, and for studies with a broader sustainability approach.
Miljöteknik , Environmental engineering