Mining/Metals/Minerals

Water Management for Mining Operations: The big challenges and potential (technical) solutions

Over the last 3 years I was impressed to see an increase in mining congress and conferences focusing on water management. Water in mining is a key concern for operators, and we are now seeing this operational dilemma escalated to the level it deserves.

Water management for mining operations is a big challenge

Water management for mining operations is a big challenge

Looking at the current mining trends, some factors increased the importance of the water in mining operations:

  •  Future mining investments, will be located in geographical locations where water is scarce (water stressed areas)
  •  A decline in grade will increase the intensity of mineral processes and therefore increase the use of the water
  • Increased sustainability and regulations will extend  the control / monitoring of water during the entire mine life cycle

The water cycle in mining is complex, and needs to align with the entire mine life cycle. To create a successful water strategy, procedures and best practices software and technologies should be seen as enablers. There are several approaches which can contribute to address water in mining during the operation phase.

Water - River Basin

Water – River Basin

Here are 3 technologies,  and I am keen to hear how this may align with what your are experiencing in your mine:

        Water Monitoring: The 3 main areas which require monitoring are the water balance, water usage and the quality of water. Field data must be captured for each of these three areas. At the core of the system is the mine operation software that aggregates information from different mining software, water modeling / simulation tools, analytics / quality systems, real time measurement and instruments. From there the software delivers a complete picture (KPIs, Graphics, and Reports) of the water usage and its quality across the entire mining supply chain. Importantly, it does such analysis in context to production data, such as the process area against water use.  Of course, water monitoring / simulation and balance go beyond some of the aspects described above, and includes more complex data acquisition (eg, evaporation rates, dust suppression, rain, snow melting, among others)

Mine operation software

Mine operation software presenting typical mining KPIs

Stormwater management: Stormwater is a concern for any mining operation; it entails several mining operational aspects (people and operational scheduling, production impacts, safety, tailings overflow) and a complete strategy for crisis management. Besides procedures and a strategy, technology has a key role to play and here we share  four major technologies able to target stormwater management:

  •  Weather forecast: Advanced weather forecast deliver accurate and precise information, including meteorologists for specific consultation and weather related questions
  • Simulation Models: By applying advanced calculations simulations can predict flooding locations, extent and severity
  • Telemetry: Wireless sensors monitoring tailings / ponds / dams levels
  • Advanced visualization: Multi layer visualization (terrain, pipes, GIS, maps) with customized alerts and mobile features and integration with video surveillance systems

Advanced weather forecast (mobile device)

Data Management and reporting: The need for a sustainable water management program is clear. However, many mining operations have a lack of human resources to collect and process data to generate the necessary reports for corporate environmental initiatives and regulations requirements. What is required is an automated sustainability portal. The sustainability portal acts as the news aggregator for the sustainability team. This application tracks and manages more than 100 separate resources and metrics using the tool, including commodities prices (from energy to raw materials),market news (from the internet), water management project status, progress and goals, carbon footprint, and water and energy consumption. It has the functionality to collect and correlate such data from numerous mines and locations.

 In addition, this tool can be customized according to the user’s needs, dragging and dropping the relevant applications    

The sustainability portal

The sustainability portal

 

This post is a collection of just some of the many insights into how technology and software can support water management within mining operations – How are you handling the water management strategy in your mining operation? Is water management increasingly becoming a key operational factor?

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