Sustainability

The EUROTALC approach to Sustainable Development

For development to be sustainable it must integrate environmental stewardship, economic development and the well-being of all people-not just for today but for countless generations to come. This is the challenge facing governments, non-governmental organizations, private enterprises, communities and individuals.

Sustainable development therefore means excellent performance in three areas:

  • environmental protection, health and safety,

  • social responsibility,

  • long-term viability.

Talc production has been an important commercial activity in Europe for over a hundred years and has contributed economically and socially to the local communities where the producers operate. Talc’s technical and environmental advantages make it a commercially viable product in the long term. It will continue to create value for local economies and to contribute to building a sustainable future for the global talc industry and for us all.

The talc industry in Europe plays an active role in the creation and maintenance of the European Union Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI) Voluntary Reporting Scheme for the Non-Energy Extractive Industry. website

Sustainable practices in talc mining and processing

All mining activities have an impact on the environment: quarrying, driving adits, sinking shafts, creating open pits, mounding of overburden rock, tailings and settlement ponds, grinding rock, operating and maintaining mining machinery and transporting ore and finished products.

European talc producers consider that honouring their environmental responsibilities is not only good business practice; it is the right thing to do.. The approach is not just to minimise adverse impacts but to create positive improvements to the environment where practical. This extends to the operations of EUROTALC members outside Europe.

To ensure environmental protection offsets the adverse effects of mining and processing, EUROTALC member companies operate environmental management systems in line with international standards such as the ISO 14000 series. Most members’ operations are certified to this standard. Internal and external auditing systems are implemented to monitor the management systems, compliance with official regulations, and conformity to company policies and standards.

Environmental care focuses mainly on the following 5 areas:

Integration of mining and processing facilities into their natural environment

When planning, building and opening new mines and/or processing facilities, care is taken to mitigate the visual impact of mining and processing operations. This planning also includes rehabilitation/restoration of the environment and its biodiversity during mining and when an operation is closed.

Emission control

Mining activities, ore processing (crushing, grinding, flotation) and product storage, bagging and shipping inevitably generate emissions in the form of dust, noise and waste water—although the latter is very limited as talc processing is mostly carried out dry. In order to reduce the effect on the environment and to safeguard the health of employees, environmental and occupational health and safety programmes are implemented. The procedures monitor emissions on a regular or continuous basis and corrective measures are taken when appropriate. Programmes are implemented in order to reduce emissions at source.

Waste management

Talc mining and processing generate various waste materials: packaging, consumables, and waste rock. Waste materials are sorted and recycled in line with prevailing waste management programmes. Rock which has to be disturbed in order to access the talc is used on site for landscaping, land restoration and creating safety barriers for mobile equipment in the mine.

Water and energy conservation

Waste and process waters are treated and recycled to the maximum practical extent.

As energy costs are high and as creating energy produces greenhouse gas (GHC) emissions causing climate change, all ways to recycle, recover or reduce energy use in the processes or to promote other uses are studied and implemented where practical.

Hazardous products and waste management

All consumable products can have an impact on the environment. Hydrocarbons and chemical reagents, for example, are governed by specific procedures for ordering, storage, handling and final treatment or disposal. The use of hazardous chemicals in the making of talc products is, however, very small, as can be seen by the data in the European Union Sustainable Development Indicators Voluntary Reporting Scheme for the Non-Energy Extractive Industry.

End of life and recycling

About 60% of all talc used is recycled in the products that contain it

Recycling

Based on the sector’s current market analysis and estimated recycling rates, we can consider that about 60% of all talc used is recycled. This figure is an EU wide average figure and regional disparities do exist. (Source: IMA-Europe mineral recycling sheets, April 2013) Talc, as most industrial minerals, are used in a wide range of applications and end products. Recovering these minerals from their end applications would be technically complicated, time-consuming and ultimately, environmentally unsound. However, although the mineral itself may not be recyclable per se, it may lead a second, third, fourth – or even an infinite number of lives in the case of paper or in others products that contain them. “Recycling” in this context should be understood as defined in the European Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC on waste), as: “any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations”.

End of life

Having contributed to providing the final product with technical and environmental advantages, talc remains in these products when they are disposed of.

Talc's chemical inertness ensures it does not become a hazardous contaminant, whatever its final destination:

In landfill (paper, plastics, coatings)

Talc remains in its matrix as long as the matrix exists. Once the organic matrix has broken down, it becomes an inert component within the landfill.

Incineration

Garbage is incinerated at 850°C and creates energy, cinder (~50 kg/tonne) and fly ash (~25 kg/tonne} which is collected by electrostatic filters.

Talc concentrates mainly in the fly ash, with a small amount in the cinder. Fly ash is often recycled in cement production. It may also be agglomerated with cement and deposited in landfills. Cinders are used for technical ballast, e.g. to build roads. In both states, talc is inert and not leachable.

In soil (sludge from sewage treatment, agricultural uses)

After the break-down of organic components, talc becomes a natural and neutral component of the soils, improves their porosity, thereby helping the development of roots. It has no fertilising effect.

In water (paper recycling, paints, certain agricultural applications)

Water discharge is not a common way to eliminate products containing talc but, in some circumstances, talc can be washed out by rainwater (old weathered paints or fertilisers for instance). In this case, talc is inert and extremely diluted and cannot affect the respiration of water life. Talc joins clays and sand as a normal component of river or sea sediments. It does not contribute to eutrophication.

Community relations

In a business as sensitive as mining, broad-based community support is essential. Indeed, good management of community relationships is as necessary to business success as the good management of operations—after all, gaining community support is vital to obtaining or maintaining a licence to operate.

EUROTALC members set out to build enduring relationships with their neighbours, based on mutual respect, active partnership, and long-term commitment. Wherever they operate, they do their best to accommodate the different cultures, lifestyles, heritage and preferences of their neighbours, particularly in areas that are industrially underdeveloped.

Mutual respect depends on understanding the issues that are important to our neighbours and on our neighbours understanding what is important to us. To do this, many of our members run structured, closely coordinated community relations programmes hinged around a range of formal and informal consultation tools that gauge peoples' perceptions of the effects and consequences of their activities.

EUROTALC member operations also promote active partnerships at European, national, regional, and local levels, and organise a diverse range of sustained initiatives and outreach programmes in support of education, employee development, sport, culture and the arts.

European Minerals Day

EUROTALC members actively participate in the European Minerals Day organised in conjunction with the European Industrial Minerals Association every two years since 2007. The event provides an excellent opportunity for local communities to find out more about the world of minerals and how they are mined and processed, from extraction to the manufacture of everyday products. It aims to boost awareness of the importance of minerals and to demonstrate that mining companies are responsible neighbours who care about the environment. Typical events consists of guided visits to quarry operations, plants and rehabilitated areas, showcasing the company’s good environmental practices as well as the unique and often rare biodiversity that finds is habitat in active quarry and mine sites. For more information: http://www.mineralsday.eu.