Importance of ambient and stack emission monitoring in mining sector

In times of scarce resources and a steadily growing world population, environmental monitoring is of particular importance. Monitoring data will not only advance the understanding of air pollution and climate change in the region but also ensure that future policies on air pollution are based on sound science. Most importantly, it will ensure that achieving Africa’s development goals limits air pollution and climate change.

Legislation in certain parts of Africa has now made monitoring of ambient and stack emissions mandatory, recognising the impact of air quality on not only on human health but also the overall natural environment and related ecosystems. The idea is that, once stack emissions such as nitrogen oxide/dioxide (NO/NO₂), sulphur dioxide (SO₂) and ambient plus fugitive emissions such as dust from coal and haul roads are effectively monitored, it will be easier to minimise the impact of activities on the quality of the air through monitoring. In addition, accurate and reliable data collected can then be submitted to regulators to demonstrate compliance and can also be used for other critical quality management requirements such as Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) reporting, thereby enhancing the circle of sustainability.

Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, the Director and Regional Representative of the Africa Office at UN Environment Programme, says: “In the face of growing inequality on pollution, a significant burden of air pollution-related deaths occur in Africa, yet we lack accurate timely information, hindering progress in mitigating the increasing harmful effects of air pollution to human health, regional climate and crop yield.

To fill this gap, it is important to prioritise creating awareness, investing in contextualising the progress made and the unique challenges and solutions in monitoring air pollution in Africa, and in assessing the impacts.

Philip Osano, Centre Director of Stockholm Environment Institute in Nairobi, said recently about a new assessment being led by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC): “The African regional assessment will determine how development in Africa can proceed at the same time as limiting air pollution and its negative impacts on health, agriculture, environment, forestry, and livelihoods.”

The assessment will also promote capacity building and action geared towards reducing emissions among government and stakeholders in Africa. While development is a priority for Africa to achieve the “Africa we want”, as outlined in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, this does not have to be at the expense of the environment or people’s health.

In respect of mining and mines, not all miners are equal regarding emissions, with some facing larger challenges than others. With this in mind, and as responsible environmental guardians, it is of the utmost importance to have systems in place that continually assess and review both ambient and stack emission impacts, particularly during the life cycle of the mine. These in turn highlight areas that require special attention and having a credible, independent monitoring partner to support definitely helps with the process.

The solution: Independent third-party monitoring companies

Mark Rowand, a director of SI Analytics Pty Ltd (SIA), an independently owned company that provides monitoring services for ambient, stack and water, believes one of the biggest challenges facing mining companies in Africa is maintaining the environmental monitoring programme for any length of time. All too often post the initial installation and commissioning phase, the monitoring equipment programme – particularly in remote areas – is overlooked and not given the same attention and focus as other plant equipment.  This invariably results in a downward slide from a data availability and credibility perspective.

In order to address this challenge, SIA offers various service level agreements (SLAs) to its mining clients, from basic ad hoc service and maintenance contracts all the way through to being fully responsible for all monitoring equipment and data management reports. In some cases, they own, operate and maintain the monitoring equipment on behalf of their clients, offering a complete outsourcing solution.

Rowand goes on to say: “Data collection is not part of our clients’ core business; their expertise is in making the product they sell. SIA is an independent trusted service provider with decades of experience and expertise in managing data and compliance issues on behalf of our clients, freeing them up to focus on their core business.”

The way forward

With a sharpened focus on ESG in Africa, mining companies   must commit to minimising the adverse impact of their activities on the environment and strive towards net zero carbon by 2050. Essential to this is the implementation and maintenance of environmental management systems, such as the international standard ISO 14001.  The “Africa we want” is one where we can all breathe more easily.

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