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Modelling Mine Sustainability – Indicators Based on a Comprehensible Framework


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Author C J Moran and A Lyon


The minerals industry, as many other industries, has a wealth of indicators
and a thriving ‘industry’ in their development, measurement and reporting. It is
natural for this to occur for a new endeavour. However, perhaps it is time for
the community concerned with minerals industry indicators to ask whether we have
achieved a certain maturation whereby proliferation of indicators may be
replaced by a more disciplined and constrained approach. In many natural and
engineered systems, thermodynamics provides well-understood and tested
constraints. Indicators that are uninterpretable in this framework are not
considered acceptable. This paper provides initial evidence that such a
formalism may be possible for mine sustainability. The formalism developed does
not claim to have the rigour of thermodynamics. However, it does provide a first
step towards formalising selection of indicators on the basis of their true
comprehensibility. A set of simple equations is developed that represent the
conventional five capitals (actually we use six because we separate renewable
and non-renewable natural capital) and how they are linked. This is coded into a
simulation model. The base equations are then used to develop a system level
indicator of sustainability performance, which is asserted to be a reflection of
the mine’s reputation. We define a least sustainable state, termed ‘maximum
revenue mining (MRM)’ in the system and define the degree of system
sustainability as how far the system is from the MRM. We then introduce a simple
mechanism whereby different actors can express differing views on the emphasis
for the distance from MRM. Sustainability thereby becomes a non-unique thing
that is defined by a distance from MRM and a set of preferences across the

Moran, C J and Lyon, A, 2009.
Modelling mine
sustainability – indicators based on a comprehensible framework, in Proceedings
2009 – Sustainable Development Indicators in the Minerals

(The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: