Water is one of the most vital elements across the entire mining production process. Now, with record low rainfall severely limiting the availability of water resources across vast swathes of Australia, we speak to Associate Professor Claire Côte, director of the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry at the University of Queensland, about the impact of drought on mining operations.
From dampening dust to cooling machinery, crushing ore to transporting tailings, water is a crucial resource for miners. However, it is one that is becoming increasingly scarce in Australia and fears over the effects of an ongoing drought are beginning to ripple through the industry.
Is it a question of operations adapting in the face of dwindling water supplies, or are we looking for answers in the wrong place? With Australia already in the eye of the storm when it comes to climate issues and their relationship to the mining industry, the issue is one unlikely to be easily resolved.
Scarlett Evans (SE): What is the importance of water in the mining industry?
Claire Côte (CC): I think there is a level of misunderstanding in the general public about the context of water in mining. It’s not an industry that is only concerned with turning on a tap to obtain water, it has to manage a range of water-related risks, from ensuring supply to managing its environmental obligations.
Some demands rely on the import of high quality water (similar to tap water), others on poor quality water collected when it rains. Water management is about meeting demands, and quite often this includes using water that is poorer quality than tap water. Water management is much more complex in this sector and because of that, it uses different measurement, analysis and tools.
For the rest of this article: https://www.mining-technology.com/features/drought-how-water-scarcity-could-affect-mining-in-australia/