Constant innovation fuels solutions to water challenges

As a major water user, the mining industry has an important role to play. We’re highlighting just a few of the many projects undertaken by ICMM members around the world, aiming to mitigate negative impacts and make a positive contribution to the places where their operations take place.

BHP’s Minera Escondida mine has constructed a 2,500 litres/second desalination plant to turn seawater into industrial-quality water, as part of BHP’s commitment to reducing its fresh water demands in Chile. Four high-pressure pump stations transport the treated water 180 km from the Port of Coloso across the Atacama Desert to a reservoir at the mine site, over 3,000 metres above sea level. Daniel Malchuk, President of BHP Minerals Americas, says: “In Chile, we aspire to cease using fresh water altogether as from 2030. We have progressed in this transition and will continue to do so gradually over the next ten years.”

Chile’s state-owned Codelco is the largest copper producer in the world. To meet its ongoing water-intensive operational needs without compromising the wellbeing of local communities, Codelco’s Radomiro Tomic mine has gained approval for a $1 billion desalination plant. The plant will treat water from the Pacific Ocean, then pipe it 150km to the arid north, relieving pressure on the Andes’ scarce freshwater resources.

Glencore’s Boshoek Smelter in South Africa has partnered with GreenSource to build a water filtration system that harvests rainwater through a synthetic football pitch at Boshoek Primary School. Up to 65,000 litres of purified rainwater can be stored beneath the pitch, providing the local community with up to 17 million litres of drinking water a year.
Over 1,000 metres below Lake Opapimiskan in Musselwhite, Canada, Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine has never had a problem getting water. But in order to minimise its impact on the Lake’s resources, the mine has installed a recycling system, using ultraviolet to remove potentially harmful viruses and other impurities, enabling it to drastically reduce its day to day freshwater extraction from the lake.

This article was produced as part of World Water Week 2018, ‘the annual focal point for discussing the globe’s water challenges,’ is organised by SIWI, an international water institute, as an integral element in its endeavours to strengthen water governance and improve ethical and equitable control over ‘who gets what water, when and how, and who has the right to water and related services, and the associated benefits.’