In the February 2023 issue of our magazine, we established that mining projects, by their very nature, have the potential to harm the environment and human health, and can have significant negative impacts on nearby real estate developments including noise pollution, dust emissions, vibrations, and water pollution.
To mitigate these risks, the scope of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) ultimately focus on whether the proposed mining project poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, and which principles should be applied in assessing that risk.
There are instances where there is scientific uncertainty about the potential harm that could result from mining activities. Such situations require the relevant decision-makers to take into account the “precautionary principle.” This principle holds that, in situations where there is scientific uncertainty or a lack of conclusive evidence regarding the potential harm that a project may cause to the environment or human health, decision-makers should err on the side of caution and take preventative action to avoid potential harm.
In the context of mining activities, the precautionary principle may require mining companies to conduct thorough environmental assessments and take more protective measures to prevent harm to the environment and local communities. The mining company may be required to provide sufficient evidence that the mine would not affect nearby properties, the occupants’ health and well-being, and the local ecosystems, even in the absence of definitive scientific evidence on the potential harm
In some cases, the precautionary principle may even lead to the rejection of proposed mining projects, if the risks to nearby real estate are deemed to be too high. This might occur if an environmental impact assessment indicates that a proposed mining project has the potential to cause significant harm, and that the risks cannot be adequately mitigated.