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Consolidate set of indicators


The indicator identification and selection process lead to the identification of 11 categories of indicators. These indicators are matched with applicable EO methods here.

A - Land-use

A1)    Total land-use by mining and milling - topographical footprint
The total area used by the mine/mill is an overarching proxy for a variety of environmental and social impacts. The assumption is that the larger the area the larger the impact.
A2)    Mining land-use intensity – topographical footprint vs. amount of marketable product.
A time series of this indicator gives an impression of the space occupied by the mining and milling/energy conversion operation vs. the amount of end product that leaves the operation as marketable product. Changes in space intensity can point to less efficient residues management, lower quality of ore/coal, or deeper mining required.
A3)    Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining – topographical footprint of artisanal and small-scale mining ASM sites.Number of operating/abandoned sites of ASM.
A4)    Residential land use - residential developments around mining areas
The spatial relationship between residential and mining areas could be an indicator for potential use conflicts and impacts on health and safety.
A5)    Informal settlements – sprawl of squatters areas, slums
Mining areas attract a variety of people and can cause the development of informal settlements in areas where there is not sufficient enforcement of zoning regulations. These suffer from poor piped water quality and in-house air pollution caused by using the bottom quality coal they collect.
A6)    Sites set aside, protected areas – nature reserves, wetlands, sites of spiritual value and similar
On the basis of the current land use planning/zoning regulations at the site, this indicates constraints on mine development and also indicates zones sensitive to environmental impact arising from the mine.
A7)    Surface water courses – percentage area covered by surface waters
Changes in surface area of lakes, rivers etc. can point to mining-induced changes in the water balance
A8)    Recultivation success on mined-out areas and waste/spoil heaps – designated mining areas covered by specific vegetation (grassland, forest, water bodies, ...), area returned to agricultural use.
The remediation of mining and milling sites, including waste management areas (waste/spoil heaps) may include the recultivation of residues management sites with predetermined plant communities. Ground-covering vegetation is the best provision against wind erosion and an easy-to-monitor measure of recultivation efforts. Background information required: Legal provisions regarding submission of remediation plans (environmental, maybe also employment) upfront, backed by a sufficient deposit payment to make remediation economically attractive.
A9)    Areas indirectly affected and its potential use - Impact of mining on the potential use of operation and surrounding areas, impact on land value / prices (opportunity cost).
The type and economic value of potential alternative uses are location specific; the relevant characteristics need to be identified. Once described And validated by ground work, they can potentially be monitored by EO techniques.
A10)  Soil fertility of remediated mine areas
Related to A3 and A4, but assessing the potential, rather than the actual vegetation. Also focusing on agriculatural plants, rather than perennial plants.
A11)  Existence and legal status of environmental impact assessments – for the operation and the remediation phase
Related to A7, but exploring the legal basis and indicating whether a lack of regulation or a lack of enforcement is the main course in case of negative impacts

B - Mass Flows

B1)    Waste volumes generated – volume (change) vs. amount of marketable product.
This indicator is related to A1, but would require the determination of volume changes in deposited materials. Such an indicator points towards the ore-grade mined, the depths of the mine and the efficiency of the mining technique. When properly contextualised, this indicator allows comparisons between mines/mine types and the analysis of time series for a particular mine.
B2)    Erosion – erosional losses on residues heaps
Erosion of residues heaps can lead to the dispersion of contaminants and the degradation of agricultural soils.

C - Energy Flows

C1)    Total energy consumption per ton of coal / lignite /ore produced
This indicator gives an impression of the energy efficiency of the operation. It is related to Indicator B1. In addition to allow intercomparison between different (types of) mines and in a time series also allows to assess efficiency gains.
C2)    Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI)
EROI is a measure for assessing at policy-making level, whether a mining operation for fuel materials makes sense from an energy balance point of view.

D - Air quality and other nuisances

D1)    Aerosols – particle concentration in off-site air
Aerosols, dust, in itself constitutes a nuisance or a health hazard, in particular if they contribute to high concentrations in in-house air, e.g. in worker dormitories. At the same time it can be an indicator of the quality of operational and residues management.
D2)    Volatiles – emission of gases from waste deposits (composition and sources)
Volatiles released can be a nuisance (odour) health hazard (e.g. carcinogenic) as well as a technical risk (e.g. if combustible). In addition, they can jeopardise recultivation, e.g. methane in the soil can suffocate plants.
D3)    Air-related health impacts – incidence of health problems due to airborne pollutants
Besides gaseous emissions (D2) particulate matter (partly from erosion, partly from production processes) can cause air-related health impacts; metals like Cr6 are of particular health relevance. Could become part of risk maps generated based on EO results.
D4)    Air-related soil degradation – soil fertility loss due to particulates deposited
Besides gaseous emissions (D2) particulate matter (partly from erosion, partly from production processes) can lead to soil quality degradation.
D5)    Noise from blasting and machinery - proximity and impact on settlements
D6)    Vibrations from blasting - proximity and impact on settlements, damage to houses and other risks

E - Water quality

E1)    Hydrological balance – relates the natural water balance to the use of the catchment area
Measurements of the amount of precipitation, evaporation, discharge and abstraction per catchment area, i.e. total water natural and anthropogenically induced flows in and out of the catchment area.
E2)    Process waters and contaminated surface run-off/stormwater – volumes of waters treated/untreated/directly discharged to surface-water courses.
E3)    Aqueous contaminant releases – contaminant concentrations in (surface) water bodies
E4)    Acid Drainage Generation Potential – distribution of sulfidic minerals
Acid drainage from mines and residue heaps can have significant impacts on water courses. The distribution of sulfidic iron-minerals indicates the potential for acid drainage generation.
E5)    Seepage from engineered structures – qantity and quality
Seepage, e.g. from tailings ponds, can be a vehicle for contaminant release and also an early indicator for problems with dam stability. Seepage can affect surface-water courses and groundwaters.
E6)    Drinking/irrigation water availability – qantity and quality
Amount of clean(able) drinking and irrigation water that can be supplied in a sustainable way.

F - Transport

F1)    Road / rail freight volumes from/to operation sites – frequency and type of traffic
F2)    Land fragmentation by transport infrastructure
‚Length of infrastructure’, or (better) ‚density [km/km2]’, ‚median and maximum size of not fragmented patches’, and ‚distance to next undisturbed site’ measure the dominant pressure an operation enacts on biodiversity and other aspects of the environment.
F3)    Local air, noise and accident impacts from transport
Impacts from transport outside the operational area (see also D)
F4)    Transport infrastructure quality
Heavy mine traffic may use public roads and add to their degradation without adequate compensation.
F5)    Accessibility due to mine-related transport infrastructure
Mining companies may built transport infrastructure that also can be used by the local population, thus improving access.

G - Geotechnical hazards and accidents

G1)    Grade of slopes – steepness of engineered slopes vs. height
A too steep slope of residues heaps or dams can indicate potential geotechnical risks of failure. The indicator can be used for initial assessment and problem scoping, but will have to be related to the materials properties determined on the ground for a more detailed assessment.
G2)    Ground stability – changes in the elevation of areas unaffected by residue disposal
Subsidence, pothole formation and other ground movement indicate inadequate underground mining techniques when exceeding certain rates of change. Sudden major losses of recultivation area indicate planning and/or management mistakes (not taking into account extreme events).
G3)   Dam stability – water saturation in retaining dams
As was demonstrated recently in Hungary, failing retaining dams of tailings ponds can have a significant environmental impact and threaten life and property. Water saturation, leading to subrosion and piping can be an early indicator for impeding disaster.
G4)    Underground and mining waste deposit fires – number, duration and area affected
Underground fires of coal seams or bituminous materials, and mining waste fires can be caused by natural processes or be the result of (mining) accidents. They mean loss of natural resources, but also CO2 emissions and nuisance due to smoke.
G5)    Flooding risks – area that may be exposed to flooding
Mapping of areas that could be under threat from flooding due to breaking retaining dams of tailings ponds, etc.

H - Industrial and other accidents

H1)   Accidents in the mining / milling operation
Working days lost and other societal costs due to workplace accidents
H2)   Accidents in the operation environment (transport, construction etc.)
Working days lost and other societal costs due to workplace accidents
H3)   Damages and accidents on neighbouring land due to ground instability
Related to G2, but focusing on the impacts. Cracked or collasing buildings, water-collecting depressions that devalue agricultural land etc. can be caused by mining-induces ground instability. The damages and the compensation payments are relevant factors for determining the economic impact.

I - Social impacts

I1)     Number of jobs created
Qualification levels, median salary, working hours, gender balance
I2)     Job security (long term)
Average duration of employment, share of local citizens in staff at different levels, share of workers retiring early, share of staff 60-65 years
I3)     Contribution to regional income
Share of population, remuneration relative to business sector standards and to regional average
I4)     Education provided
In-house education and training for company specific skills / for general employability, education and training provided by whom (company, business associations, public authorities, etc.), for whom (income group, qualification level and sex of participants)
I5)     Health-care and welfare infrastructure provided by mining companies
In more remote areas mining companies often provide for infrastructure, even to non-mine staff.
I6)     Civil rights in mining companies
From the right to organise, to freedom of speech (including on malperformance and cover-ups), and the means to secure such rights such as to an ombudsman or the like.
I7)     Civil society activism level
Existence of pressure groups, lobbies, activists connected to their level of public resonance and political influence on the local and regional level.

J - Regional development

J1)    Mandatory contributions
Taxes paid, share in local, regional and national tax income, including other mandatory payments/obligations, expenditures caused by mining operations (administrative procedures, monitoring, enforcement, etc.)
J2)    Voluntary contributions to the community
Donation of money and/or staff working hours to activities of public interest / for the common good, etc. on the local level
J3)    Infrastructure development
Housing, industrial premises, roads/railroads, sealed areas. Akin to A2 and F2, but assessing qualitative as well as quantitative changes. The number of houses and industrial premises and their state would indicate economic developments.
J4)    Existence and effectiveness of local/regional institutions for information management
Collecting and integrating monitoring information, comparing to benchmarks (best practice), making this information publicly accessible
J5)    Capabilities of local and regional authorities
For monitoring and compliance enforcement, including the capability to make use of EO-information, in particular remote sensing data

K - Economic Vulnerability/Resilience

K1)    Risk for the community
Share of income and employment dependent on the mining operation.
K2)    Corporate vulnerability
Dependency ratios (on the largest supplier: for key equipment parts, main customer, logistics partner, etc.)
K3)    Vulnerability management cost
Payment to insurance companies, liability regulations, management accountability regulations, or similar issues
K4)    Damage costs
Payments for violation of environmental, social, taxation or other legal provisions (polluter pays principle, speculator pays principle), compensation payments for health and other damages, cases of and fines paid and due for social, ethnic, gender or other discrimination.
K5)    Sustainability management plan
Sustainable development is part of the core strategy with board level responsibility. Core strategy vs. sub-strategy vs. PR, voluntary code of conduct or regular sustainability report.