Effective water management

By |  March 5, 2015

Equipment and technologies emerge to improve the handling of this key resource.

In northern Chile, desalinated water from the Pacific Ocean is pumped as high as 10,000 ft. above sea level into the Andes Mountains to sustain mining operations in the copper-rich South American country. Desalination facilities are being built along the coast, as Chilean mining companies are turning to water desalination technologies to meet their process water requirements.

And it’s not just copper mines that have water management issues. Aggregate operations and many types of mining operations face such issues.

Reverse osmosis is one of a number of water treatment technologies mining companies around the globe are pursuing in the face of protracted battles with local governments over water rights and permits, and rising concerns over mining’s environmental impact. This industry shift has implications not only for treatment equipment but also for the pumps and equipment used to transport water.

The mining industry’s impact on water quality and quantity is among the most contentious water topics today. It is driving mining companies to rethink water across their operations, with an eye on efficient water management. The global market research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates water and wastewater services within the mining industry will grow to $3.6 billion by 2016, an increase of $1.3 billion from 2011.

Equipment matters

Most processes that involve moving water to or from a source rely on pumps. Smart companies are investing in the most efficient, reliable and adaptable equipment to ensure productivity in the face of variables, such as rising energy costs, increasing water scarcity and a volatile commodities market.

It is critical that equipment have the right material composition to avoid degradation or chemical reaction with the media it comes in contact with. Likewise, equipment for treating and transporting seawater must be able to withstand the damaging properties of salt, which can react with metal components in a system. Corrosion will lead to higher operational and replacement costs, as well as downtime.

Dewatering advances

Concern over the environmental impact of traditional mining practices, coupled with increasing water scarcity, continue to drive mining companies to seek more efficient forms of water management.

In many gold mines, for example, open pit dewatering is key to the continued and efficient extraction of precious metals. At a large-scale gold mine in western Australia, investing in a dewatering system to effectively remove the continual influx of saline groundwater and precipitation was vital to keep the mine running at its optimum level of production.

Many large open pit mines have been excavated to significant depth, requiring pumps capable of building significant pressure to boost water out of the pit. Various pump technologies are available, and it is recommended that users contact a pump expert to assess the unique requirements of the job before selecting a pumping system.

Reliable experts

Those employees at aggregate operations with responsibility for water management must develop expertise well beyond the traditional requirements of the job. Partnering with a trusted expert in water transport and treatment solutions is essential to effectively implement a water management strategy and improve the efficiency of mining operations.

The success of mining companies hinges on their ability to embrace new forms of technology, particularly in regard to water systems management. Creating alliances with industry experts will improve outcomes and long-term sustainability by ensuring the most efficient systems are in place to achieve these goals.

Take note

Many large open pit mines have been excavated to significant depth, requiring pumps capable of building significant pressure to boost water out of the pit.


Nate Maguire is Americas’ business unit director, industry and agriculture, for Xylem’s applied water systems business unit.

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About the Author:

Allison Kral is the former senior digital media manager for North Coast Media (NCM). She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating e-newsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites. She also creates content for NCM's Portable Plants magazine, GPS World magazine and Geospatial Solutions. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.

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