It can often seem like environmental needs and mining objectives are at odds with one another. In fact, mining activities have a major impact on more than 10 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Is there a way to run a commercially successful mine while still being kind to the planet? Given that the mining industry supports around 45% of the world’s economic activities, it’s in everyone’s interests to try and achieve more of a balance.

At Amman Mineral, introducing sustainable operations has become an integral part of our overall business strategy. Surrounded by lush greenery and magnificent wildlife at Batu Hijau, we’re constantly reminded of the need to be environmentally conscious. We’ve found that being more sustainable can also improve operational efficiency, leading to short-term as well as long-term benefits.

As part of our strategy, we’ve recently converted our coal waste into valuable compounds. Since 2000, Batu Hijau site has produced 3.6 million tons of copper and 8 million ounces of gold. Unfortunately, this means our power plants also produce 15,600 tons of waste in the form of coal ash — also known as FABA (Fly Ash and Bottom Ash) — per year. Fly Ash, the fine particle ash collected by media filter, and Bottom Ash, the heavier ash collected in the submerged chain conveyor, are stockpiled in a landfill at the power plant area.

We’ve found a way to turn this FABA waste into the compound component necessary for road paving, in the reclamation area. We mix it with soil to reduce its acidity and test it for pollutants. It’s completely fit for purpose. So much so, that the Ministry of Environment and Forestry granted us a permit for FABA utilisation in May 2019.

At the moment, 94% of FABA produced at the Batu Hijau power plant has been used to surface roads for our heavy vehicles to pass through, while the rest is employed as raw material for mixing concrete. It has reduced the cost of road maintenance, while helping to contribute to a circular economy.

And this is only the beginning.