The Impact Of Water Scarcity On Australia’s Mining Industry
Water is one of the most essential resources for miners but, unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly scarce in Australia, with the industry now growing more and more concerned about the impact of an ongoing drought.
Speaking to Mining Technology magazine, associate professor Clare Cote, director of the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry at the University of Queensland, explained that there are water planning processes in place to work out how much water is available throughout any given catchment area.
When mines require high quality water to operate, a contract is required for a yearly allocation in line with the local water resource plan. How much water mines will have access to will be dictated by the government’s resource planning process.
This is a system that operates very effectively if no political interference is seen, she continued, saying that when politicians pressurise scientists to change parts of a water resource plan to benefit agriculture at the expense of the environment, this can be disastrous.
Ms Cote went on to say that she would be surprised if mining operations started to close because of water scarcity issues, although it could happen because of something else, such as mining companies not being able to secure the necessary resources to introduce a mitigation plan.
“With water (and environment in general), you must make the decision for the long term based on years of data. You can’t decide today you need to do something about water scarcity and have it come into effect in a month, it doesn’t work that way.
“For example, it takes a minimum of 18 months to install a desalination plant on a mine site. You would need to make the decision two to three years before the problem arises. The issue with the industry is they struggle with decisions for the long term. It’s driven by the market, it’s driven by commodity prices, and they fail to apply long term thinking,” she added.
You might not think it but water stress and scarcity is an issue that affects us here in the UK just as it does over in Australia – and it’s time that we all start taking responsibility for the water we’re using so we can protect this precious resource for future generations.
Why don’t you have water consumption analysis carried out across your site to see if you’re wasting any water – and where you’re wasting it.
Once you know how much water you’re using you can then compare this with what you’re being charged for and we can then make the necessary recommendations for where your usage can be reduced to help lower your costs.
You may also find it useful to look into automated meter reading, which monitors water usage continuously across your site to identify issues quickly so water-saving solutions can be implemented immediately.