Have you noticed that better drill site environmental practices are accelerating faster than ever?
At a Glance
Particularly when it comes to the use of plastic products on our drill programs.
The two biggest plastic consumables drill programs have:
- Plastic Core Trays
- Plastic Sample Bags
Until now, using a biodegradable & compostable plastic bag has been dismissed or never pursued.
As with using recycled polymer in our Plastic Core Trays.
Ok, so what is possible?
Let's begin with the Core Trays.
Here in Australia, we've decided to partner with specialist Recyclers to find a way to make use of Australian kerbside plastic.
New innovation using state-of-the-art technology to purify the recycled plastic means for the first time ever, the plastics you put in your recycle bin at home has been reused to create a core tray.
Interesting or Boring?
Maybe it only becomes interesting when we realise the extent of the problem Australia faces.
For years we've been shipping our plastic waste to China.
Long story short - they no longer want it.
We are left to sort our own plastic waste and the recycling industry are hopelessly behind with it.
With mines and explorers under increasing pressure and delayed approvals through their various environmental impacts we must find good Corporate Social Responsibility stories.
We are trying to find simple but practical ways for you to show your shareholders immediately, that you are aware and you care.
Whether you are an avid Circular Economy fan, or it's the last thing on your mind one thing is starting to happen:
"Miners and Explorers shareholders, and sometimes the balance of shareholders, are starting to force environmental changes to our longstanding practices."
Read this article from Rio Tinto
At a strategic level they are committed aligning their 'business with shareholders’ social and environmental priorities.'
It will filter down to every junior explorer soon enough.
Core Trays - Virgin v Recycled Challenge.
For years, only virgin material was good enough for core trays, and that's what we've always used.
In 2020 new technologies are now able to sort kerbside plastic into its the different polymers and remove crucial impurities (e.g. oily substances)
Until now, it wasn’t possible to use recycled polymer effectively and it's why only virgin polymer was used.
With the right technologies, this recycled polymer is now just as robust as virgin.
To remove all doubt, all the Discoverer Trays we produce are backed by a Lifetime Warranty.
This is something that's never even been promised; even with a Virgin Core Tray.
In some circumstances ‘Environmentally friendly’ options have been seen as inferior.
In 2019 this was the truth.
2020 different story.
Technology to achieve this will never slow down, it just becomes a matter of keeping up.
Plastic Sample Bags - The proverbial problem!
Green UV Plastic Bags are expected to hold samples for an relatively short period of time.
The problem is that virgin Green UV plastic bags take 25+ years to break down fully.
That's why collecting, emptying and disposing of all plastic bags after a drill program is a requirement.
If left behind they break down into micro plastics that damage the environment.
Fundamentally, Green UV bag are designed to be ‘tough’.
- Puncture/tear resistant.
- Seams that don’t burst.
- UV Stable to last in the harsh sun.
So the question for the industry became;
How do we get an environmental alternative
with the same properties...
...without the need to send a field team to collect all plastic so the rehabilitation process could begin.
This really is a waste of time and money on ‘unproductive’ man hours.
We do this currently as its what we are legally required to do.
Here's a couple of Government Exploration regulation extracts:
Samples should be moved off site on a daily or weekly basis or within the shortest possible timeframe. On Crown land, samples may be retained on site for up to four weeks from completion of the program with the Crown land manager’s agreement.
Tenement holders are required to remove all waste materials, rubbish, plastic sample bags etc from the tenement prior to or at the termination of the exploration program” (abbreviated version from the below source)
So what's the options?
There's a couple:
- Stick with your existing Green UV bags, it's worked for years.
- Use a biodegradable & compostable green bag.
Regardless of what you decide to do now, there are major government-driven changes to be aware off.
Here's the 2025 Targets in relation to plastics in Australia:
I'm not sure if the entire industry is ready for this...
A biodegradable & compostable bag, right now, is 3 times the price.
Circa $2 each for 600x900mm Bag.
However, the faster this change is embraced, economies of scale will factor in reducing this price.
For others, we might be dragged kicking and screaming into the change.
In a nutshell, to meet new government regulations we need to start thinking about this.
On a positive note, relationships with pastoralists will improve.
Burying your bags in the sump, in an environmentally friendly way, while reducing your labour cost may be a massive bonus?
Don't get deceived by the general 'Biodegradable' terminology.
The differences are explained in this article, and you can find out what you can trust!
We believe mining can change it's ‘dirty’ industry image, that we believe at times is unfairly attributed.
It just takes a few of us to jump onboard.