Monday, 24 April 2017
Water is necessary for life to exist at all. Every single life form on earth, from the single celled organism through the most complex organisms, relies on water for sustenance. Water makes up most of the world and the planet is seventy five percent water. Some 97.5% is saline water largely in the oceans, so that only 2.5% is fresh water and useful for human needs. Fresh water is a renewable and variable, but a finite natural resource. The demand for water is driven primarily by population and concomitant economic growth. Overall, some 70% of the water withdrawn from the environment is used in agriculture, 20% by industry,7% by households and 3% by mining. Future water requirements are predicted to grow considerably, while supplies will remain relatively constant or decline due to over pumping of aquifers, changing weather patterns and increased water pollution and contamination. While all regions will experience water scarcity to some degree, there are some countries where it will become more critical leading to conflict between consumers.
Mining activities are often located in remote, arid environments, with limited access to high-quality water. Water rights in these regions are extremely contentious issues, in some instances leading to violent confrontation. This situation has the potential to only get worse because competition for ‘scarce’ water resources will increase with local population growth and agricultural land usage. Water used at mining operations comes from a variety of sources and the quantity and quality of the water varies from mine-site to mine-site. Mining impacts on water quantity and quality are among the most contentious aspects of mining and mining development. The main problem for the mining industry is to generate confidence in developing a responsible, sustainable and transparent water management strategy that is recognized as such by all stakeholders.
This will be the subject of a keynote lecture at Sustainable Minerals '18 in Namibia next year, by Prof. Rob Dunne. Rob will provide an overview of water in the wider global arena and compare this to how the mining industry has dealt with water stewardship over the last couple of decades, and what the future may hold.
Robert Dunne was the Fellow Metallurgy at Newmont Mining Corporation before he retired at the end of 2013. Prior to this he held the position of Group Executive-Metallurgy Development and Technology. Over the last 35 years Rob has worked for a number of mining companies including Newcrest Mining, Anglo American, Anglovaal and Mintek. He has authored and co-authored over 80 papers and has been an invited conference plenary speaker. Water in the mining industry has been a focus over the last 10 years and Rob has given three plenary talks on this subject. He was nominated as a SME Henry Krumb lecturer and delivered a plenary talk on water to local USA branches of the SME. He is an Adjunct Professor at both Curtin University (Gold Technology Group) and Queensland University (JKMRC), Australia.