As we know water is used in almost every single manufacturing and production process, across a multitude of industries, all around the world.
And the mining industry is no exception.
Water is in fact so vital to the mining industry that it can not run its operations without it.
As experts warn of depleting water sources and governments continue to increase regulations, the need for sustainable water management within the mining industry has become as vital as the water itself.
Now more than ever, measures need to be taken to manage this critical resource and to identify options and initiatives for water conservation and management.
So what can the mining industry do to promote water management and sustainability?
Let’s first look at the role of water in mining and how the mining sector has developed innovative ways to respond to the issues surrounding water management and sustainability.
Waters Role In Mining
Water is used in mining primarily for:
- Mineral processing
- Dust control
- Transport of ore and waste in slurries and suspension
Mineral processing is of course, fundamental to mining. It covers quarrying, milling of mined materials, injection of water for secondary oil recovery or for unconventional oil and gas recovery (such as hydraulic fracturing), and other operations associated with mining activities.
Water is used during the extraction of minerals that may be in the form of solids, such as coal, iron, sand, and gravel; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gas.
Water is also used during the separation of minerals through chemical processes, during the physical separation of material such as in centrifugal separation, and within cooling systems.
Water is an extremely efficient medium for supplying chemicals and mixing materials and it is even an essential ingredient for some chemical processes. It is also the most convenient medium for gravitational and centrifugal separation of minerals from host rocks.
Vast amounts of water are also required for dust control and suppression both during mineral processing and at waste dumps and haul roads.
Wet dust control systems use spray nozzles to apply water at the dust source to prevent the dust from becoming airborne, or to the airborne dust particles to suppress the dust and minimise the distance it travels.
Read our article on silica dust to find out more about why dust control is essential - Deadly Dust Found In Mining & Construction.
Transport of ore and waste
Once the ore is crushed the mined product can be transported through a pipeline as an aqueous slurry to a processing plant some distance away.
The transportation of ore and wastes in the form of slurry or suspensions is typically the biggest water demand at a mine.
Note that using pipelines over conventional transport such as rail and trucks reduces both costs and energy demands and makes remote deposits more economically feasible.
Water Management and Sustainability
Water is so vital to mining that without it there is no mining. Therefore water management and sustainability are detrimental to the future success of the mining sector.
Water efficiency improvements have been made by adopting new technologies, more efficient processes, incorporating reuse and recycling, and finding alternative sources of water.
- Limiting the volume of water required for mining operations
- Using lower quality, alternative sources of water eg. seawater
- Treating mining water for reuse
- Protecting the quality of water discharged after use
Digital Innovation In Water Management: Pumpsim
Poor water reticulation design in a mining environment can often result in an unreliable water supply system which often results in an insufficient water supply or pressure, pipe breakage, poor pump performance and productions delays.
Pumpsim™ can solve these problems by ensuring that pumps and pipes are correctly sized and rated, and that the pipe and pump design is optimal for all required activities.
Pumpsim is a 3D simulation software for mines that allows you to simulate the flow and behaviour of the fluids inside your pipe networks.
The intuitive and easy to use interface means that you can build a network of pipes, channels, pumps, tanks, valves and sprays to simulate flows and pressures of liquids, slurries and many other fluids.
By ensuring your reticulation systems are correctly designed, you can be confident of the safe, continuous supply and removal of water at correct pressures and flows, eliminating costly downtime.
Download the Pumpsim brochure today and find out how we can help optimise your mine pipes for an innovative and optimised water management strategy - Download Pumpsim Brochure