As a diversified natural resources company, we understand that the nature of our operations has implications for the environment in different ways - through the emission of particulates, wastes generated in mining, refining and smelting processes, water consumption and changes in land use.
As part of continual improvement, we plan to obtain ISO 14001 certification at all our units and as of now 40 out of 45 units are ISO 14001 certified. The ISO 14001 accreditation helps us to regularly review the Environmental Management System, with programmes in place to mitigate the identified environmental impacts of our products and services. Our Environmental Technical Standard encapsulates our approach, where all our operations are obliged to avoid if possible, or otherwise minimise, adverse impacts on the environment from our operations through effective management systems and processes that work towards continuous improvement of our environmental performance. Plants have installed fugitive dust control systems like dry fog systems, water spray systems, bag filters, scrubbers systems, etc for controlling dust in various dry bulk material handling areas for prevention of the air pollution
We strive for zero environmental incidents at all our operations and have a robust internal process for managing any that do occur, including a rating system according to their severity. All businesses monitor report and investigate any incident with the aim to apply lessons learned to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents, and share any learning's across our operations. At the majority of our operations, environmental incident analyses are discussed in monthly operational reviews.
Vedanta's internal rating system for incidents categorises them according to their severity and is also used by all the businesses, with the Vedanta Sustainability Committee reviewing Category 4 and Category 5 incidents (the highest categories) on a quarterly basis and all incidents (Category 1 - 5) are reviewed on a monthly basis.
Our operations exist in areas of varying degrees of water stress. Consequently, we take our water consumption and management extremely seriously. Our group water policy commits us to recognising the social, economic and environmental value of water and the increasing global concern of water scarcity. We strive to minimise the amount of fresh water we consume by reusing as much water as possible in our processes.
We use water in mining, smelting, refining and power plant operations from sources like ground water, surface water, rainfall and the municipality. None of the natural water sources are being affected by our water withdrawal as water withdrawal in all of our operations is less than 5% of capacity of the source. Also, none of the water sources is designated as a protected area either nationally or internationally.
Inherently, mining operations can affect local ecology. Our biodiversity policy commits us to minimise and mitigate biodiversity risks throughout our operations and we strive to avoid adverse impacts on natural habitats. We plan the management of our land use in a manner that allows biodiversity conservation to be integrated throughout our projects' life cycle, including decommissioning, closure and rehabilitation.
Our aim is to achieve a minimum of No Net Loss (NNL) of biodiversity and Net Positive Gain (NPG) of biodiversity (incase any critical habitat is present) at all our operations.We apply the UN Environment Programme’s Integrated BiodiversityAssessment Tool (IBAT) to screen for risk, followed by site-specificassessments to identify sensitive habitats, important bird areasand key biodiversity hot spots. The results of risk screening andassessments are applied to develop Biodiversity Management Plans(BMPs) for all our main sites (see graphic below). The intention is tohave a full suite of BMPs in place by 2015-16.
Energy and Climate Change
Meeting growing energy demands while also limiting carbon emissions is a global challenge. As we are an energy intensive industry – it is important that we carefully consider our approach to energy use, including our use oftechnology to maximise efficiencies. Our Energy and Carbon Policy commits ouroperations to adopt and maintain global bestpractices in carbon and energy management and minimise greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
We are aware of the opportunities that energy management and climate change present and understand the business case for theseinitiatives, which can include efficiency savings based on a combination of new technology andadvancing our business processes. In order togive rigour to our energy programmes, plantsare upgrading existing business managementsystems to allow accreditation to the energystandard ISO 50001.
We closely monitor the extent of any impact that our operations have on air quality and the effects and implications that this may have on employees, the communities local to our operations, and the broader environment. We are committed to using processes and technology that minimises any particulate release.We require all our operations to apply air quality prevention and mitigation measures where measured (in the case of operational activities) or predicted (in the case of new projects). Air emissions monitoring include both Ambient Air Quality Monitoring (AAQM) as well as stack emissions monitoring.
Mining and resource production results in waste production and how we manage and reduce our waste is an important measure of how successful we are in managing our business sustainably.
Our Resource Use and Waste Management Standard commits our operations to minimise resource use across the lifecycle of each site as well as requiring sites to demonstrate a commitment to apply the waste management hierarchy principles. The Resource Use and Waste Management Standard ensures that our operations apply the principles of the Waste Hierarchy in the design and implementation of all of its operations. Accordingly, priority is given to avoidance and minimisation of waste generation followed by recovery, reuse and recycling. The least preferred option is disposal (landfill or incineration). Opportunities to eliminate, reduce, reuse, recycle and recover waste, wherever practicable, are identified and implemented.
Re-purposing Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste such as oil, residual sludge and scrubber ‘cake’ is an unwanted by–product of many of our processes, including our operations at Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper. Determined to recycle 100% of its waste -scrubber cake, the smelting business innovated a method to convert it into gypsum, a mineral used to manufacture cement and plasterboard, which has a rising value in global commodity markets.
As the scrubber cake contains the right balance of chemicals to produce gypsum, following approval from the India Central Pollution Control Board, it invested approximately US$33.3 million in state–of–the–art technology to neutralise and re–purpose its cake.
Metal dust is now restricted from entering lime scrubbers at its primary and secondary smelters, while a 'bag-house' and flue gas desulphurisation remove noxious sulphur dioxide and dust from the air. Residual 'bleed' is taken to a plant for poly-electrolyte treatment. The final product is gypsum. The investment has reduced hazardous waste by 40%.