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How Can Mining Companies Save Water

How Can Mining Companies Save Water

The mining industry faces a unique challenge when it comes to minimising their environmental impact while also ensuring access to valuable resources. Saving water as a mining company can seem difficult, but there are ways to save water while still maintaining productivity. 

 

What tactics to implement

There are a number of tactics to utilise to save water as a mining company, not least of all is to perform a water usage audit in order to gather useful and actionable data. The following advice will help to start and maintain your water management plan.

 

Install a water treatment unit

One of the ways in which a mining company can save water is to install a water treatment unit, much like the ones that PROXA Water provide. These units treat effluent, recover water for reuse and drinking water purposes, and minimise the legacy risks associated with salt management. These treatment plants not only effectively help with water saving processes but also decrease operation costs and utilise non-chemical treatment processes.

 

Reduce water needs

One of the ways in which you can reduce the usage of your mining company’s water is to develop methodologies which reduce the need for water during the process. 

You could develop ways to keep process materials as dry as possible while in the flowsheet. Evaluate storage procedures that can use less water and preserve the water that is already embedded in the process. 

 

Try to minimise contact water

You could try to design mining operations to reduce the impact on surface and groundwater. This includes considering alternative mining methods both above and below ground to reduce any effect on aquifers. 

One method to look into involves non-explosive mining measures, which will mean less water that needs treatment in the future. Research different successful methods that are being used across the country, and implement one that minimises effects on any water involved. 

 

Evaluate water costs and expenditure

An important step to take towards saving water is to understand the cost of water on both a financial and risk basis for current and future conditions. 

Consider how your operation impacts the environment surrounding the mine and whether other methods could be used to optimise water use and decrease impact. You should also investigate how you can reduce potential cost increases and future environmental impacts. Educate your employees and yourself in the value of water and keep this in the forefront of all your projects.

 

Consider different water usage procedures onsite

Mining companies know how dangerous a dusty road on site can be, causing decreased visibility and hazardous dust particles to enter the air. The spraying method of tampering dust is common practice, but it does use copious amounts of water unnecessarily. 

You could look into compaction aids and other technologically advanced tactics, such as products which use soil agglomerates, which are primarily non-adhesive and non-binding “perpetual wetting agents”. These keep the soil wet, which decreases dust and the need to spray water. 

 

Draw up a schematic of water usage and sources

In order to fully understand where your water source is coming from and how it is being used, you will need to draw a schematic that shows inflows, sources of fresh water and process water, and how it’s all recycled. This schematic will allow you to assess the situation and make the changes that are necessary. 

If your mine’s water source is a nearby river and you use a lot of water, you need to have a complete understanding of the water system in order to develop a conservation strategy. Continual use of this water source will have a serious impact on the groundwater systems. 

 

Educate employees

It may sound like a basic step to take, but educating your employees on the importance of water conservation will help them to understand why processes will be changing. You should also educate them on water saving practices they can use at home, such as using greywater or rainwater catchment tanks. 

Teach your employees how to use the new equipment or processes you are implementing in order to ensure a successful transition to your water saving processes. Your employees will also be able to identify problems and alert you to any other practices that need to be rectified. 

 

Conclusion

The mining industry is one which faces obstacles when it comes to conserving both water and electricity, but these are not impossible tasks. If you evaluate your water usage, you will be able to put together a strategy that can save water but maintain productivity. 

Embracing new technologies for decreasing dust on mine roads and on site will also enable you to save a large amount of water. Saving water is vital, especially in the current drought the country is experiencing. And so, mining companies will also have to do their part towards saving our most important resource. 
 

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