Creating and implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) is more than just identifying the laws and regulations that apply to your facility and complying with the regulatory requirements contained in your permits. An effective EMS will identify the environmental aspects (causes) of each of the processes occurring at your facility and analyze what impacts (effects) they have on the environment. These aspects and impacts can then be linked to the regulatory requirements, identifying areas to improve performance and compliance.
In order to identify and analyze your aspects and impacts:
- Organize your facility into groups. For a small mine, these might include administration, mining, processing, and exploration.
- Within each of the groups, identify the main processes. For mining, processes may include dewatering, drilling, blasting, loading, hauling, dumping, fueling, maintenance, reclamation, and others.
- Next, break down each of the processes into specific activities. Blasting, for example, may be broken down into offloading ammonium nitrate, loading and transporting explosives, loading the blast holes, tying the blast pattern, detonation of the blast, and post blast activities.
- Create a range of set answers for each of the questions used to analyze the aspects.
- Identify each of the environmental aspects associated with these activities by asking the following questions:
- Does the activity have positive or negative impacts to the environment? For example, does it produce air emissions, impact surface or ground water, impact the land, or deplete natural resources? Does it impact vegetation or wildlife?
- While analyzing the impacts, consider the potential impacts during normal operations, upset conditions, and emergency conditions. When are the potential impacts likely to occur?
- Are there any regulatory or other requirements associated with the identified aspect/impact?
- What is the likelihood of the impacts occurring?
- What are the severity of the impacts? Would they result in limited reversible impacts or do they have potential to result in long-term environmental impacts? Are there regulatory reporting requirements? Would the impact result in a breach of regulations with the potential for regulatory actions or fines?
- What are the costs of mitigating the impacts?
- How would you gauge the level of interest from regulators, community members and other stakeholders?
Identifying and analyzing the aspects and impacts associated with your facility will assist you in determining the areas of greatest concern and where your focus should be. Understanding the aspects and impacts will allow you to better comply with the regulatory requirements and will help to create value-adding targets and goals for your environmental program.