Systems Analysis: A new way mining sites can practice sustainability
Mining companies looking to cut costs while incorporating sustainable practices in their life cycle analyses have a new tool in their toolbox. With expertise in hydrology and geology, Integral scientist Dr. Ken Kolm has developed an approach known as “Hydrologic and Environmental Systems Analysis,” or HESA, which is being used by the mining industry to ensure all relevant controlling factors of a particular environment can be identified at the planning and characterization stage. Dr. Kolm applies the HESA approach to develop an integrated understanding of how the separate components of environmental systems—topography, geomorphology, geology, chemistry, and hydrology—fit together and set the conditions which mine planning, operation, and closure efforts must address to ensure sustainable and cost efficient outcomes.
HESA has captured the interest of mining companies nationwide not only because it integrates information culled from multiple technical disciplines into a meaningful whole, but also because of its simplicity in application, which is rooted in existing technologies. Continued improvements in geographic information systems and modeling software have allowed scientists like Kolm to integrate information and understand behavior that even 5 years ago would only have been an educated guess. Distilling the data into an integrated understanding of hydrologic and environmental system behavior involves a stepwise method, developed by Kolm, that pinpoints areas where better operational strategies can be used to reduce environmental liability and impacts.
“I developed the systems approach because I care about the environment,” says Kolm, “but at the same time it is a practical way for companies to save money by planning ahead and using integrated data in a new way.”
The validity of the HESA approach is widely recognized and has been integrated into ASTM Standard D-5979, “Standard Guide for Conceptualization and Characterization of Ground-Water Systems, American Society for Testing and Materials.” According to Kolm, the HESA process has also been used in industrial, municipal, and government investigations to provide the most accurate approach for synthesizing and analyzing diverse environmental data sets for site characterization and remedial designs. Dr. Kolm has used the HESA approach in providing expert witness testimony and litigation support to municipalities, private entities, and state and federal government agencies.