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The need for projects to focus on permitting and environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations is increasingly prioritised over the technical and economic aspects of backfill and tailings solutions. This includes not only environmental permitting, but also takes into account public perception and responses to a project, as well as local community engagement and support. To optimise the success of a project, it is essential to incorporate and understand both the mining companies’ ESG frameworks and the local and governmental permitting requirements from the beginning.
There is a need to pull these more advanced backfill and tailings designs earlier into the process to satisfy permitting requirements rather than the usual execution schedule.
Permitting timelines may also lead to temporary backfill solutions such as cemented rockfill until paste backfill can be permitted and implemented.
Comparing surface versus underground permitting requirements can lead to a more strategic approach by evaluating alternative solutions for infrastructure placement. For example, some facilities can be located underground if surface is perceived to be contentious. This can also lead to an approach where facility placement that might be better suited underground, but a more conservative approach is to start on surface and move underground as the project progresses.
Given the focus on ESG and permitting and the timelines involved, it is more important than ever to provide a narrative which conveys a responsible integrated tailings solution for mining projects, both for permitting and to ensure public support.
Keywords: permitting, ESG, underground, responsible, backfill, community engagement
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