Clear and clean

May 24, 2018 Kylie Williams

In a recent edition of CIM Magazine, Resa Furey and Jim Finley discussed access to water as a growing humanitarian and environmental challenge. 

 

In the latest World Economic Forum Global Risks Report, water crises ranked fifth in terms of global impact. Competing demands for water will result in food crises, large-scale involuntary migration and environmental degradation. According to the World Bank, 70 per cent of fresh water worldwide is used for agriculture and this sector will need to grow by 50 per cent to feed the expected 10 billion people on earth by 2050.

“The reality is that we all have to learn to live in a resource-constrained world,” said Resa Furey, market analyst at global design and engineering firm Stantec. “Water is life and a finite resource, so limited supplies of fresh water are putting the squeeze on everyone – mining, agriculture and society.”

A reliable water supply is critical to any mining operation. Mines need millions of liters of water each year to process and extract ore, store waste rock as tailings, cool drilling machinery, and suppress dust. 

“The reality is that we all have to learn to live in a resource-constrained world,” said Resa Furey, market analyst at global design and engineering firm Stantec. “Water is life and a finite resource, so limited supplies of fresh water are putting the squeeze on everyone – mining, agriculture and society.”

“The most straightforward risk is to lose the social licence to mine, which translates into delays, conflict and bad feelings that do not easily dissipate,” said Jim Finley, a principal geochemist at Stantec who has worked for decades on mine water management projects. “An important component of a mine’s overall risk management program is addressing water supply and use while limiting the impact on existing water users.”

Specific water management solutions are as varied as mines themselves but a trend is emerging. “An often used yet still innovative approach is a ‘fit for use’ water strategy,” said Furey. This approach involves replacing fresh water that would be used in operations with relatively poorer quality water, such as saline groundwater, seawater or wastewater, and treating it so that it is “fit for use” then recycling it through different water management circuits throughout the mine site.

This strategy requires custom, site-specific solutions that involve out-of-the-box thinking and a combination of technical innovation and social collaboration. 

Please find the full article on CIM Magazine.

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