Miners still lack effective water management
Posted: 10/15/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 1
Although water has long been recognised as a critical commodity in mining, many mining companies still do not have effective or sustainable water management practices.
Dr. Venkata Kambala, Head of Research and Development at Hudsons Resources said sustainable water management in mine sites is at a critical point and can no longer be ignored. In his role, Dr. Kambala helps resource companies develop new water and waste water treatment solutions.
“Water is a precious commodity in the current market – it’s comparable to oil and gold. Unless you have water, you can’t do much in mine sites but I think miners still don’t respect how water is used,” he said.
As a dry nation, conscious water consumption is ingrained in Australian culture, but mine sites still see water as a secondary consideration in their operations.
“Water management is often a bit reactive – people place emphasis on it in times of need, otherwise it is neglected. But the truth is, if you are not doing this properly, there are big consequences,” said Dr. Kambala.
“Poor management of water results in fines from environmental legislations and delayed environmental approvals. I think it’s also a risk to companies’ corporate reputation and if they underestimate the role of water in mining operations.”
As part of his role, Dr. Kambala visits different mine sites to examine best practice in water management. Whilst he believes that the approach to water depends on the individual needs of a mine site, there are certain fundamentals miners should adhere to.
“In areas of water and waste water treatment, I believe in a small acronym called UTS – Use, Treat and Store. This should be the basis for all water treatment facilities. You need to have enough water to use, and then this water needs to be treated and stored for future use.”
Whilst many mine sites apply the UTS principle in various ways, Dr. Kambala said this should just be the minimum requirement. The next step is to consider water quantity and disposability.
“Miners need to ensure there is adequate water to use for operational purposes and ensure optimal water disposability, meaning knowing what purpose water might have and whether or not it should be discharged,” he said.
Dr. Kambala said these issues can be solved through proper planning and integrating an understanding of water throughout the life of a mine.
“It’s ideal to have a strong operational strategy throughout the life cycle of a mine and factor in all uncertainties up front. For example mining companies should ask: What happens if there’s a flood? What happens if there’s contaminated water on site?”
Dr. Kambala believes that if mining companies want to get a better understanding of water, they need to speak to on-site workers because they are the ones who can provide insights into how water should be used.
“Water operations should come from a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach, and it should be ultimately by all levels of management including site management, operations management and corporate management.”
If you want to learn more about water management and how you can develop effective water strategies in your mine site, Mining IQ is holding a water management in mining eevnt in Johannesburg, South Africa event on the 20-21st November 2012. For more information about the event, please visit www.watermanagementmining.com.
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