19 Mining and Materials Firms Leading the Way in Sustainability

It surprises people when we show them what lengths our industry goes to to keep our planet and our communities clean.

The truth is mining and materials companies oversee some of the world’s most ambitious sustainability programs.

Here are 19 examples we feel deserve special recognition.
 

Oldcastle Materials

America’s largest asphalt producer and asphalt paver, Oldcastle Materials works with local communities and governments to ensure it abides by the principles of being a good neighbor. This guiding mission has led the company to establish several wildlife habitats on the land it owns.

What’s more, Oldcastle’s team is active in working with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for some of the more vulnerable members of the communities in which the company works.
 

CEMEX

CEMEX has several facilities where thousands of acres have been set aside for wildlife habitats and wetland restoration projects. Other nature conservancy efforts include

  • a tree farm planted at its Louisville, Kentucky, site;
  • a clay mine reclamation project in Fairborn, Ohio, that established 47 acres as native grasslands for local birds;
  • and an ongoing project in Lyons, Colorado, that involves planting native vegetation, controlling for invasive weed species, and encouraging various biodiversity efforts such as having goats graze on those lands.

 

Martin Marietta

Martin Marietta had several interesting case studies in its 2015 sustainability report about what specific steps the company was taking to promote responsible environmental stewardship.

These included turning its 47-year-old Cedar Rapids Sand Plants into a recreational park now known as the Prairie Park Fishery. The park features a 65-acre lake, nearly two miles of hiking and cycling trails, abundant plant life, and a great spot for Cedar Rapids residents to picnic in the summer.

Or, consider the company’s ongoing operations at its Hunter, Texas, plant. There, the company worked with municipal officials to change much of its water supply to recycled water, thereby reducing its consumption of water from local wells. It’s also testing out a variety of alternative energy sources at that plant to offset its reliance on traditional fuels.
 

BHP Billiton

Australia’s BHP Billiton recently announced that its Ayllu Solar project, a partnership with the Centre for Solar Energy Research, had won an award for best business practices from Chile’s Minister for the Environment, Pablo Badenier. That project seeks to build greater working knowledge of sustainable development via solar energy in Chile’s northern Arica y Parinacota region.
 

Capitol Aggregates

Capitol Aggregates bakes sustainability into its product manufacturing processes, citing it as a key concept to the company’s ongoing success. The company was the first American cement producer to publish an Environmental Product Declaration for cement, offering transparent and independent verification about the environmental impact of that product’s lifecycle.
 

Vale

Brazilian mining company Vale had its Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory recognized by the Brazilian government for the sixth straight year. In 2015, Vale saw a reduction of about 1 million tons of CO2e, even with eight new projects launched and another 18 existing projects continued. This is all thanks to the carbon program the company implemented in 2008, laying out exactly how it plans to continually reduce GHG emissions.

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Summit Materials

A relative newcomer to the industry at just nine years old, Summit Materials was founded during our industry’s modern age, when companies really began to double down on their sustainability efforts. Summit baked these ideas into the company’s foundation. Just to give a snapshot of what this looked like in 2015, Summit

  • had six habitats certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council,
  • cut CO2 emissions at its hot mix asphalt plants by 42 percent,
  • and recycled 18 million pounds of material at its recycling facility in Kansas.

 

Freeport-McMoRan

Freeport-McMoRan recently announced it had begun to implement new procedures to improve its waste and recyclable material management programs. In 2015, the company says, it was able to recycle 95 percent of the 20 thousand cubic meters it used in maintenance activities. Further, the company provides ongoing monitoring to reclaimed lands to ensure vegetation and other native species thrive in those areas.

 

AngloAmerican

AngloAmerican is one of the founding signatories of the International Council on Mining and Metals, which was established in the early 2000s to guide the mining and metals industry’s social and environmental practices.

In the run-up to the industry’s goals to significantly reduce environmental impacts by 2020, AngloAmerican has continuously reduced its water consumption, reduced the number of environmental incidents (from 14 in 2014 to just 6 in 2015), and made marked progress in getting every one of its operations to meet the ISO 140001 environmental management standard.

 

Geneva Rock

“We believe the concrete industry is an important product in achieving sustainable development,” Geneva Rock says. “… Environmental awareness includes a proactive effort of lowering emissions and other environmental impacts related to the company’s ongoing operations.”

To that end, its parent company, Clyde Companies, has

  • offered continuous training to employees on sustainable practices, reducing energy consumption and recycling;
  • maintained strict sustainability standards for its offices and jobsites;
  • diverted tens of millions of tons of waste from landfills over the years;
  • and recycled thousands of gallons of oil.

 

Goldcorp

Goldcorp Executive VP of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Brent Bergeron wrote that the company hit some important milestones toward becoming more sustainable in 2016. These included

  • its bi-annual sustainability summit that brings together employees for all over for three days of learning;
  • an award from Global Compact Network Canada, the Canadian chapter of the UN Global Compact Network, for Goldcorp’s work in promoting both sustainability as well as worker rights;
  • the opening of an all-electric underground mine in Canada, “an ambitious transition from diesel-powered vehicles to battery and electric mobile equipment that would eliminate all greenhouse gases associated with the movement of ore and waste rock.”

 

Lhoist

Lhoist understands that its mining operations can span years and decades at certain sites, so the company works continuously to ensure its plans account for all stakeholders when it deploys its resources. “Only by doing this, we can ensure a supply that meets the needs of existing and emerging applications,” the company says. “This is particularly true in the areas of steel, environment, construction, civil engineering and agriculture.”

To that end, Lhoist has take specific steps to reduce its emissions, including increasing their usage of biomass fuels, investing in energy-efficient technologies and working with kiln manufacturers to improve installations.

 

Newmont

Newmont has been directly involved in bringing a bird species, the Greater Sage-Grouse, off of the Endangered Species list in 2015. Newmont’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Conservation Program helped conserve 400,000 acres of the Greater Sage-Grouse’s natural habitat on the company’s private lands (in addition to another 1.4 million acres on federal land).

 

Granite Construction

In 2016, the Ethisphere Institute named Granite one of the world’s most ethical companies. Part of that designation is due to Granite’s ongoing commitment to improving its environmental impacts, which include a goal of achieving zero environmental incidents and citations (a number the company took significant steps to reduce between 2014 and 2016).

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Vulcan Materials Company

“Mining, ultimately, is an interim use of the land,” Vulcan says. “We keep its end use in mind.” A few examples of the company’s responsible land management efforts include

  • transforming its River Rock Plant in Fresno, California, to a 300-acre island habitat for a variety of animal species (that includes one of the largest great blue heron rookeries in the Central Valley);
  • reclaiming its Broward limestone quarry in Florida with a sizable lake;
  • and converting its Parkwood Quarry in Birmingham, Alabama, to a series of lakes that provide habitat for native bird species.

 

Tetra Tech

“Our vision of the future is to incorporate the concepts of sustainability more fully into our daily operations and to follow the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development goal to ‘meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,’” Tetra Tech says.

To that end, the company continues to make ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the company set a goal to reduce GHG emissions per associate by 20 percent between 2010 and 2015. In reality, reductions were closer to 38 percent, which translated to 2.56 metric tons CO2e reduced per associate in 2015.

 

HeidelbergCement Group

“Our long-term success depends on sustainable business practices as well as trusting relations with our neighbors, business partners, and employees,” HeidelbergCement says. The company has ambitious goals it is trying to meet by 2020, including

  • 100 percent deployment of ISO 14001 at all plants,
  • ensuring every site has an up-to-date environmental audit, and
  • significant emissions reductions over its 2008 numbers.

 

Teck

Canadian resources company Teck creates a top-down incentive structure for executives to support sustainability efforts. For all executives, the company says, annual bonuses feature a weighting system of between 15 and 20 percent that accounts for each person’s achievements in conservation and sustainability.

Those efforts have borne fruit. For example, according to the company’s sustainability report for the years 2013 to 2015, the company decreased the intensity of new water it used by about 20 percent while increasing the amount of water it reused and recycled by 8 percent.
 

Barrick

Canadian mining company Barrick seeks to work with stakeholders and shareholders to ensure its operations worldwide are mutually beneficial for all parties. “When we get this right, we create mutual and lasting prosperity for our partners, so that we can all advance, together,” the company says.

As just three examples of this principle in action, Barrick has

  • recently updated its minimum criteria for its own water conservation standard,
  • implemented updated water treatment systems at one site in New Mexico with a whole suite of cutting-edge techniques,
  • and just saw another water treatment plant in Pierina, Peru, celebrate two years of treating acid rock drainage and providing irrigation and water for livestock to nearby communities.

 
images by: Tobias Keller, Wil Stewart, Andrew Coelho