World Water Day is recognized every year on March 22 to appreciate and draw attention to the most important natural resource in our lives – water. World Water Day was first established by the United Nations in 1993. The theme for this year is Groundwater: Making the invisible visible. As mentioned by the United Nations Water, groundwater has the potential to provide societies with tremendous social, economic, and environmental benefits and opportunities. Groundwater already provides half of the volume of water withdrawn for domestic use by the global population, including the drinking water for much of the rural population who do not get their water delivered to them via public or private supply systems. Global Road Technology operates in the mining sector and GRT products such as GRT: Haul-Loc reduces water consumption by about 65% which contributes to effective mine water management. The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) released an update to its sector-leading Water Accounting Framework which coincided with World Water Day. In this article, GRT reflects on World Water Day focusing on the mining sector, water management frameworks, and related tools for policy makers and updates to the MCA Water Accounting Framework.
What does World Water Day mean for the mining sector?
World Water Day is a reminder for the mining sector to renew, reinforce, and follow through with its commitment to continual improvement in water stewardship in its operations. The mining sector needs water not only for ore extraction but also for other phases of operations such as dust suppression, equipment cooling, treatment and processing, and transport in hydraulic transportation of ore in slurry pipelines. However, not all these phases require high-quality water. The conceptual model of a water mine operation system is comprised of four elements:
- Water received at the operational facility described as Input
- Divert flows, which is water moved around or through the facility
- Task-store-treat cycle
- Outputs, represented by the return flow from the facility to the environment
Each element can have different impacts on the environment such as the impact on regional water resources through water abstraction or the impact on watercourses through diversion or releases of low-quality water. And in cases where mines receive large amounts of water from rainfall, mine water management often must deal with water excess rather than with shortages. However, despite the comparatively low absolute water quantities in use, the mining industry’s impact on local water resources can be remarkable. Consequently, the extent to which a mine is economically and technically viable as well as its impact on the local environment and communities are closely tied to the hydrological context it is located in.
Water management frameworks and related tools for policymakers?
Many governments have established frameworks and best practices for water management within their borders, and many international agencies and NGOs have similar recommended frameworks for cross-border water management. Of these frameworks, few specifically direct the responsibilities of mining entities, whether through regulations or legislation. Mining and mineral processing operations have the potential to substantially impact local hydrology and water quality, hence there need to be sound water management frameworks and related tools for policymakers. Table 1 shows a list of different countries and international entities and their water monitoring frameworks and accompanying legislation.
Table 1: Different countries and international entities and their water monitoring frameworks and accompanying legislation.
|Country||Water Monitoring Framework||Accompanying Legislation|
|Canada||Environmental Effects Monitoring Program (EEM)||Fisheries Act (Government of Canada 1985); Metal and Diamond Effluent Regulations (Government of Canada 2002)|
|Australia & New Zealand||Water Quality Management Framework (WQMF)||Commonwealth Water Act Resource Management Regulations (LI 2020/174; SR 1998/208) (Government of Australia, 2007; Government of New Zealand, 2020)|
|United States||USEPA Water Quality Standards||Clean Water Act (CWA) (Copeland, 2016)|
|European Union||EU Water Framework Directive (WFD)||Directive 2000/60/EC (Articles 8 & 11; Annex V) (European Parliament & Council of the European Union, 2000)|
|International||Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)||NA, but requires that companies abide by host country laws.|
Updates to the MCA Water Accounting Framework
The MCA Water Accounting Framework (WAF) was developed specifically for water accounting in the mining and metals industry. The WAF provides a consistent, but flexible approach to water accounting that can be adapted to a range of mining-related contexts to optimize water management. The framework is also scalable. WAF information can be used to support a variety of operational and corporate water reporting needs. It is a tool that provides a consistent approach to understanding, benchmarking, and communicating operational, regional, and corporate level water use. The framework was adopted in 2011 as the culmination of more than six years of work by the MCA, University of Queensland Sustainable Minerals Institute, and industry to develop a common industry approach to water accounting. Since its release, the WAF has been integrated into national and international reporting frameworks including the International Council of Mining and Metals Water Reporting: Good practice guide and the Global Reporting Initiative requirements.
GRT’s role in water resource management in the mining sector
At Global Road Technology we believe that water is a precious resource. Managing water resources is already one of the key environmental challenges facing the world today. This challenge will become more critical over the coming decades as we are forced to balance water priorities across potable requirements, industry, agriculture, and ecological demands. Along with our dust and erosion control products, GRT’s range of direct water management technologies is focused on improving and conserving this precious resource. GRT focuses on these 2 key elements – water quantity and water quality. Saving water through high-tech dust control products has long been the focus of the company. This commitment to managing water has expanded into the creation of cutting-edge technologies to save directly save water and improve stored or retained water quality. Our water resource management portfolio includes:
- GRT: Haul-Loc
- GRT: DamSealer
- GRT: CC
- GRT: Liquid-Floc
- GRT: Floc-Bloc
Interested in finding out more about the GRT water resource management portfolio?
Effective water management is critical in any mining operation, so finding innovative ways to execute it requires partnering with an organization that values water as a precious resource.
GRT will help you implement best practices of water resource management on your mine site through sustainability-driven practices that ensure compliance with the requirements of regulators.
We enable your mine to interact with water resources amicably and improve your operational-level efforts to prevent or minimize adverse impacts on water resources. Reach out to Daniel Grundy for more information.