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Mine water risk management: an integrated approach

A4   |   Letter

SRK News | Issue 55: Mine Water Management

Tony Rex, Corporate Hydrogeologist     

When it comes to water, the requirements of mining operations vary enormously, and the risks associated with water are different from site to site. This difference in risk factors is partly a function of the nature of the operation (above water table mining versus below, for example) and partly a function of climate and local hydrologic setting.

Wherever a particular project sits in a generic risk framework however, effectively identifying, defining, and managing the project-specific risks associated with managing mine water comes down to a few fundamental factors in SRK’s experience:

  • Understanding the hydrologic setting and conditions. In the majority of reviews we undertake, we highlight weaknesses in characterisation whether in the meteorology, the surface water hydrology or the hydrogeology. The characterisation needs to be supported by highquality, representative data followed by data analysis and modelling. This knowledge, together with the supporting assessment, is fundamental to informing the effective design of water infrastructure (including dewatering systems, water abstractions, etc.), understanding specific project risks, developing water management plans and defining environmental and social metrics.
  • Taking a joined-up approach. Because water management for a mining operation is a whole-mine consideration, the associated risks are heightened if the various functions responsible for aspects of water are not working as an integrated, communicating team. Water management plans are essential but so is effective management.
  • Thinking about local communities. Social aspects of water and the perception of related impacts and issues are often under-estimated by clients. Water stewardship strategies linked to wider social and community initiatives can mitigate potential problems and disputes.
  • Ensuring on-going monitoring and management. From pre-development baseline condition monitoring, to monitoring of, for example, water pressures in pit slopes during operations to closure monitoring of water quality, the importance of robust, high quality monitoring data collection and data management is critical in supporting management decisions and adding value to a project.

SRK helps define, manage and mitigate risks in mine water management, but also highlights opportunities through holistic and innovative thinking.

SRK North America