1. Environmental management in the extractives sector
Globally, long-term economic growth can only be achieved through the pursuit of sustainable development policies that consider economic, social and environmental security measures equally. Environmental management in the extractives sector is concerned with issues relating to the risks and impacts that the industry exerts over the environment, covering aspects from policy-making, permitting, and regulation to supervision, monitoring and evaluation.
The challenge for policy makers dealing with the introduction of the extractives sector in any country is to identify, monitor, manage and mitigate environmental impacts at each stage of project development. Early and rigorous identification of negative impacts allows for well-targeted, evidence-based deployment of mitigation strategies. It is important to note that the impacts of mining and petroleum operations are likely to grow as projects move through their lifecycle, from exploration to closure.
In all cases, the decision of whether or not to extract natural resources must be informed by the likelihood and degree of environmental impacts.
The extractives industry is seen as the major cause of environmental degradation and human induced climate change, followed by deforestation, animal farming and the conversion of land for agriculture. Both upstream and downstream processes of petroleum production contribute to air, water and land pollution; likewise with mining. Consequences from extractive industry development can have both global and local impact.
The release of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) i.e. carbon dioxide and methane caused by the burning of fossil fuels is the most pressing issue globally. More local issues include the discharge of pollutants and toxic wastes during extraction and transportation, which often result in both primary and secondary impacts to communities and their surrounding environment.
In order to grasp the necessity of mitigating risks, one needs to be aware of the potential impacts of extractive industries development. Therefore, the next chapter provides an overview of the impacts of petroleum extraction and mining.