12/12/2007 - 22:00

A precious resource

12/12/2007 - 22:00

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The mining industry may be responsible for just 12 per cent of the state’s total water consumption, but mining companies are increasingly recognising the importance of water resource management in their operations.

A precious resource

The mining industry may be responsible for just 12 per cent of the state’s total water consumption, but mining companies are increasingly recognising the importance of water resource management in their operations. 

In terms of priority, “water should be absolutely up there”, according to Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Sam Walsh.

As a sign of this determination, Rio Tinto Iron Ore created the position of general manager water resources in 2006, supported by three dedicated water managers to optimise the company’s performance in managing water responsibly.

Sourcing about 90 per cent of the water needs for its Western Australian operation through self-supply, Rio Tinto Iron Ore, through Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, is also a licensed water service provider, providing potable water and wastewater services to Dampier, Tom Price and Paraburdoo.

The company reduced its fresh water use by 11.5 per cent in 2006 to 20,683 million litres, despite a significant increase in iron ore production, according to its sustainability report.

Rio introduced water management plans at each site in 2006, which includes targets for water use, catchment information and site-specific water information and responsibilities.

Similarly, Iluka conducted a strategic water review and site audit in 2006 to gain a better understanding of the issues facing the company with regard to water management at each of its operational regions.

Iluka reduced its overall water usage by13 per cent in 2006 due to a number of factors, including the recycling of on-site water, capturing tailings water for re-use, and the utilisation of soil binding agents to reduce water for dust suppression.

Water use at Iluka’s South West operations reached 5,781 million litres in 2006, but while water use over the past five years has remained steady, site water discharge has almost halved.

The Kwinana Industrial Area has also been active in the management of water resources and reductions in water use, using its close proximity to industries to implement innovative water efficiencies and exchange synergies.

The $25 million Kwinana Water Reclamation Plant, which opened in late 2004, treats 24ML per day of secondary treated wastewater from the Woodman Point wastewater treatment plant, producing 17ML/day of high quality industrial grade water, which  is reticulated to Kwinana industry through a dedicated scheme.

According to the Water Corporation, the reclamation plant will greatly reduce the demand for scheme water from the Kwinana industrial area by six gigalitres a year, equivalent to about 2 per cent of Perth’s total annual scheme water use.

Water supply remains a major consideration for the KIA, which consumes an estimated 32.7GL of water each year, a number expected to rise to 69.6GL per year by 2021.

The mining industry is the third biggest sector for water consumption in the state, consuming 183GL in 2006.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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