What’s the latest in water management for the mining sector?

Published 10 April 2017

Aerial view of the sand mining operations near Bungendore
The Water in Mining Specialist Network is currently mapping out key themes across the Minerals, Petroleum, Gas and Quarry sectors, and developing fact sheets intended to give insight into the sector at a State level. If you wish to contribute, please get in touch with the Water in Mining Specialist Network Committee via networks@awa.asn.au

Sitting on the Committee is Chair Sarah Hesse from Cardno, Ellen Kemp of Ellen Kemp Consulting, Tim Saxby from Jacobs, Ron Colman from Roy Hill Mine, Raj Karup from Environmental Engineers International, and Garrick Field from Rio Tinto.

Water management issues in the mining sector are diverse and complex. What is clear is that the water sector needs to ensure quality science and engineering is underpinning decision making at every level. 

The best part about working in the water in mining sector is “successfully completing a project that provides a water supply without which the project couldn’t exist,” said Committee Member Ron Colman.

“Water supply is not initially in the top priority of most project managers’ lists. In WA, all projects are self-supplied from groundwater so hydrogeology becomes very important very quickly.”

There are a number of exciting projects taking place in the water in mining sector. Roy Hill has invested a lot of time in the hydraulic design of water systems to minimise fuel burn per kilolitre of water pumped.

“We are actively investigating ways of injecting materials into the permeable zones of the aquifer to reduce the permeability and thereby reduce the amount of dewatering we have to do. This reduces both Capex and Opex spend. 

“We’re also investigating solar-diesel hybrid energy and very recently the potential for inland saline aquaculture growing barramundi.”

Their work with the WaterGems modelling won them Bentley’s 2016 Be Inspired Award for Innovation in Water Network Analysis at the Year in Infrastructure Conference in London.

But there are always challenges.

“We need to ensure water quality and quantity meet demand at the process plant, that dust suppression water supply keeps up to the water trucks, and that dewatering is keeping ahead of the mine plan (while also trying to anticipate changes to the short term mine plan).

“For the hands-on team on the ground, it is servicing and fuelling nearly 100 generators running individual submersible pumps and maintaining over 100km of pipework with associated infrastructure.”

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