How Drone Technology Contributes to ESG in Mining

Environmental hazards factor into every step of the mining process. From erosion to contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface water, irresponsible mining can cause catastrophic, long-term damage to the planet. Worldwide, codes and regulations are used to help minimize a mine’s impact on the environment and human health, but  the movement known as ESG is challenging mining companies to operate as responsibly as possible in every aspect of business.

ESG in Mining

ESG in the mining industry

In recent years, the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) movement has gained traction around the world. In the mining industry, success has traditionally been reported in terms of significant discoveries or production numbers. Now, those who have a vested interest in any mining operation are giving ESG concerns high priority. So, what exactly are the ESG considerations in terms of mining operations? They include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Environmental: Since there are countless environmental hazards involved with mining, site managers should take great care in every aspect of operations. Biodiversity, water management, carbon footprint, mine tailings, and mine closure are all key concerns.
  • Social: Mines affect more than investors, site managers, and miners working on the site. Responsible mining should prioritize relationships with the community. There’s also a high priority on workplace health and safety.
  • Governance: A mine must comply with all local regulations. Priority is placed on complete transparency in operations, avoiding questionable ethics concerns, and preventing bribery and corruption.
ESG in Mining with Haul Road Measurements

How drone surveys help mine operations follow ESG guidelines

How are mine operators addressing ESG concerns throughout the lifecycle of a mine? Drones provide a surprising opportunity for teams to improve Environmental, Social and Governance concerns. The remote locations of most mining sites are perfectly suitable for the use of drones for surveying. Since the typical mine is located away from built-up areas, it’s easy for surveyors to make flight plans that are in accordance with aviation regulations. Site managers who make the switch to drone surveying experience the following ESG benefits:

  • Environmental: Drones make non-intrusive site inspections, providing quick analyzation of earthworks, stockpile volumes, surface cracks, positioning of equipment, and much more. There’s no environmental impact involved with drone surveying. Instead, data collected on a regular basis by drone can protect nearby vegetation, landmarks, and waterways. During construction of new mines, drone surveys document all equipment on-site, all site hazards, and earthworks. During regular operations at the mine, teams have up-to-date information to monitor water management, and keep erosion under control. When it comes time to close a mine, surveys monitor and document the remediation process.
  • Social: One of the key benefits of drone surveying is that it eliminates the need for traditional ground surveys. At hazardous sites like open pit mines, surveying by drone is a much safer solution. During operations, 3D models created by drone data gives teams up-to-the-minute inspections of blast walls and terracing, keeping workers safe as they go about their job.
  • Governance: Complying with local regulations is a top priority for any mining operation. Regular drone surveys allow teams on the ground map-out sensitive areas to ensure regulatory compliance, helping companies avoid hefty fines and bad press. Frequent drone surveys also boost investor confidence in an operation, showing that site managers are doing their due diligence. Finally, drone surveys serve as a complete history of work that’s been done on a site. Documentation is important to show that a mine has been closed safely and responsibly and may be important in case of any future legal proceedings.

While it’s hard to quantify the benefits listed above, investors, customers, local communities, and even workers at a mine are paying attention to ESG. ESG concerns have a lasting effect on the quality of life, not only for people who are directly involved with a mining operation, but for the entire planet. While drones are just one part of an ESG strategy at a mine, they play an important part in supporting responsible operations from start to finish.


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