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“Sustainability is key to mining”

Prof Józef Dubiñski, General Director, Central Mining Institute, Poland
Prof Józef Dubiñski
General Director, Central Mining Institute, Poland

Prof Józef Dubiñski is a professor by profession, miner at heart and environmentalist in his beliefs. A strong propagator of the idea sustainability in mining, Prof. Dubiñski, who is also the chairman of the World Mining Congress, has been at the forefront calling for use of better technology to address environ- mental pollution and safety hazards in mining.

What are the activities of Central Mining Institute?
Central Mining Institute (CMI) is one of the largest research and development institutes in Poland. Our main activities are in the mining area, not just restricted to coal mining but also includes other mineral resources such as copper, silver and lignite deposits. We are also involved in carrying out scientific research in mining. Another important part of our activities is environmental engineering because during the past few decades, mining activities in Poland have led to large-scale environmental pollution. Besides, it is also important to spread environmental engineering and knowledge to other countries in the world. For example, safety in mines is one of our leading branches of activity and we share this knowledge with China, Russia, Vietnam and other countries where mining is undertaken on a large scale.

Apart from its knowledge sharing and research activities, does CMI also offer educational programmes and training modules?
Yes, we offer specialised courses for mining engineers, including PhDs and post-graduate programmes. We have a strong scientific staff of 15 professors and around 100 PhD doctors. Geosciences is another strong area of our activities, which includes geology, geophysics, surveying and geodesy. In Poland, mining is concentrated in urban areas and convincing citizens about safety is a major challenge. Besides, the damage caused to infrastructure is also an issue. This is a serious condition for the mining industry as these activities will not be possible in future without acceptance of the citizens.

Geospatial technology is applied widely in mining and related activities. How is CMI trying to encourage the use of this technology?
Spatial technology is an integral part of our activities because mining as an activity creates different types of data. This data not only includes geological problems but every measurement made in the mining process creates some kind of data. The database needs to be visualised and analysed as it plays a vital role in making decisions for managing various processes. In Poland, mining geophysics is not only used for the preliminary recognition of deposits in geological conditions but also in classifying mining seismicity, because there are mines with strong seismicity due to high-level depths. Gathering data about shocks is extremely important to prevent a catastrophe. This is an area where geospatial knowledge is widely used.

CMI is actively involved in international projects. What are the various kinds of activities undertaken with your international partners?
We have signed agreements with various institutions and organisations around the world. For example, China has been our partner for more than 30 years. We have signed agreements with the China Research Coal Institute and the China University of Mining and Technology in Beijing where our main area of activity is mining safety. China has been at the receiving end of a number of mine-related disasters in the past, and thus we are trying to build strong cooperation in this regard. We produce a seismological apparatus that China is buying. A new area of our activity is underground classification as the use of classical methods of exploration is very expensive. Besides, classical methods also result in low efficiency of resources.

Safety is a major aspect in mining activities. Do you see the role of geospatial technology in ensuring greater safety?
Safety is an extremely important aspect, particularly in countries where underground mining is conducted because it is a rather dangerous activity. There are many kinds of data, such as data about seismicity and mission control, which should be elaborated in a form that permits quick decision making. Certain analysis about mining safety should be based on very reliable data obtained from measurements and this can be elaborated by geospatial technology.

Since the inception of the World Mining Congress in 1958, how has the usage of science and technology evolved in mining processes?
The World Mining Congress (WMC) was established in 1958 by Polish professor Boleslaw Krupinski. At that time, Europe was divided into two — the capitalist and socialist parts. Such a divide made it difficult to establish a contact between mining engineers and technicians. Therefore, the idea to establish WMC was aimed at removing this gap and also to share mining knowledge, particularly in the area of higher efficiency of mining technologies. Another objective was to spread mining knowledge to countries where such knowledge was low. For example, while Great Britain, France, Germany and Poland had very high knowhow of mining operations, China, Ukraine and India were just beginning to gather such knowledge. Thirdly, it also worked to develop solidarity between members of the mining society as it was very important to create a regional institution before mining could develop around the world. Each meeting of the WMC has a motto, which aims to implement something new in the mining activity. For example, the next meeting is scheduled in Montreal, Canada in August 2013 and is aimed at mapping the future advances in mining.

Over the past 50 years, how successful has WMC been in spreading awareness about the latest advances in science and technology?
For the past several years, each meeting of the WMC has concluded with a declaration that directs mining activities in not only the host country but also in the 50-odd participating countries.

Firstly, there is the problem of rationale exploitation of resources. Secondly, we have to ensure environmental protection to obtain social acceptance of mining activity. Besides, education is another major challenge because there is a severe shortage of mining engineers in many countries around the world. Apart from this, we also promote innovation in mining as it is very important for future mining to be smart and intelligent so that processes can be automated and miners do not have to undertake dangerous tasks. Each meeting of the WMC is followed by a meeting of the International Organising Committee where each participating country makes a short report about execution and fulfilment of the WMC declaration.

Information exchange is one basic needs to ensure coopera- tion between nations. Is WMC looking in this direction?
There is a proposal to publish a separate newsletter of the WMC to ensure adequate information exchange.

However, this is a little difficult to accomplish because a number of countries around the world already have their own specialised journals and participation of WMC members is very important in this regard. For example, before the Congress in New Delhi, a journal was published by an engineers” society in India, which was dedicated to the problems of WMC and the new technologies in Poland, India and China. Besides, the WMC publishes the proceedings of the each meeting, which are also available on its website.

As the chairman of WMC, what is your advice for the mining sector in the backdrop of an ecosystem which is getting fragile and at a time when environmental security and safety are getting more important than before?
I think the mining industry is set to take off in future and there are a lot of factors that support this notion. However, mining managers and the mining society should take great care for sustainability as it is one big challenge for us.

Economy, in my opinion, does not dominate the environmental and social aspects because societies around the world will not accept this activity if the safety level is low or when there are damages on the surface. Therefore, I think that sustainability in mining is a big challenge because raw mineral resources are non-renewable and will get exhausted if exploited without any rational reasons.