Fernandez-Iglesias, A, Andres, S, Luiña, R, Pecharroman, D & Alvarez-Cabal, V 2015, 'Differential water footprint assessment – conventional versus paste tailings disposal', in R Jewell & AB Fourie (eds), Paste 2015: Proceedings of the 18th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 561-573, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_rep/1504_43_Fernandez-Iglesias
In August 2014, the international standard ISO 14046:2014 ‘Environmental management — Water footprint — Principles, requirements and guidelines’ (International Organization for Standardization [ISO] 2014) was released. This is the first version ever published on water footprint, and therefore an important milestone for all environmental activities related to water management.
The issue of water and its management has become increasingly central to the global debate on sustainable development. This interest has been driven by growing water demand, increasing water scarcity in many areas and/or degradation of water quality. This drives the need for a better understanding of water related impacts as a basis for improved water management at local, regional, national and global levels.
It is therefore desirable to have appropriate assessment techniques that can be used in an internationally consistent manner. One of the techniques being developed for this purpose is the water footprint assessment (ISO 2014).
Water and mining have always had a close connection because most mining and mineral processing operations require water, often in large amounts (Rowe 2012). Mining activities can contaminate surface and groundwater and demand great amounts of water, especially froth process used as a method of minerals separation. There are some minerals such as coal, cyanide or bauxite that can severely affect freshwater resources. Moreover, closure stage requires special treatments because of significant long-term environmental liabilities – they must be pumped and treated indefinitely to prevent contamination of surface and ground waters (Hendrix 2012). Despite of the fact that mining represents a very small fraction of the total world’s water demand, its impact on local resources surrounding mine sites can be significant. The problem is that mining operations cannot be relocated, making the sector susceptible to changing local water availability (Barton 2010).
Paste and thickened tailings technology is nowadays a proven solution for one of the biggest environmental impacts of mining activities: tailings disposal. Among the various drivers that this technology has, water is probably one of the most important, not only from an environmental perspective but also from an economic one.
This paper applies the methodology proposed by the Water Footprint Network International and later published as an ISO norm, to assess the differential Water Footprint of two scenarios, conventional tailings management and its alternative process, paste and thickened tailings.
Berger, M & Finkbeiner, M 2010, ‘Water footprinting: how to address water use in life cycle assessment?’, Sustainability, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 919-944.
Brown, A & Matlock, MD 2011, ‘A review of water scarcity indices and methodologies’, The Sustainability Consortium, University of Arkansas, Tempe.
Ceres 2010, Murky waters? Corporate reporting on water risk: a benchmarking study of 100 companies, prepared by B Barton, Ceres, Boston.
Ciba 2013, Water Treatments. Anexo 2: hoja de seguridad floculante, coagulante y nutriente, Ciba Especialidades Químicas Ltda., Santiago, viewed 11 March 2015,
Doka, G 2009, Life cycle inventory data of mining waste: emissions from sulfidic tailings disposal, Doka Life Cycle Assessments, Zürich.
ETH 2014, Water stress index (WSI) for use in water footprinting and endpoint characterization factors of water consumption for use in LCA, ETH Zürich: IfU - EI99+, Zürich, viewed 1 October 2014,
Fernández-Iglesias, A, Correa de Araujo, A, Andrés, S, Xuan, W, Luiña, R & Álvarez, V 2013, ‘Study of environmental feasibility of paste and thickened tailings by life-cycle assessment (LCA)’, in RJ Jewell & AB Fourie (eds), Proceedings of the 16th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 349-364.
Hendrix, J 2012, Gold mining and the use, quality and availability of water, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Hoekstra, AY, Chapagain, AK, Aldaya, MM & Mekomen, MM 2011, The water footprint assessment manual: setting the global standard, viewed 11 March 2015, www.waterfootprint.org/downloads/TheWaterFootprintAssessmentManual.pdf, Water Footprint Network, Enschede.
Hoekstra, AY, Chapagain, AK, Aldaya, MM & Mekomen, MM 2009, Water footprint manual: state of the art 2009, viewed 11 March 2015, www.waterfootprint.org/downloads/WaterFootprintManual2009.pdf, Water Footprint Network, Enschede.
Hoekstra, AY & Chapagain, K 2008, Globalization of water: sharing the planet’s freshwater resources, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
International Organization for Standardization 2014, ISO 14046: Environmental Management – Water Footprint – Principles, Requirements and Guidelines, ISO, Geneva.
International Organization for Standardization 2006, ISO 14040: Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Principles and Framework, ISO, Geneva.
Jeswani, KH & Azapagic, A 2011, ‘Water footprint: methodologies and a case study for assessing the impacts of water use’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 19, no. 12, pp. 1288-1299.
Jewell, RJ & Fourie, AB 2006, Paste and thickened tailings - a guide, 2nd edn, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth.
Koehler, A 2008, ‘Water use in LCA: managing the planet’s freshwater resources’, International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 451-455.
Kounina, A, Margni, M, Bayart, JB, Boulay, AM, Berger, M, Bulle, C, Frischknecht, R, Koehler, A, Milà i Canals, Ll, Motoshita, M, Núñez, M, Peters, G, Pfister, S, Ridoutt, B, Zelm, R, Verones, F & Humbert, S 2013, ‘Review of methods addressing freshwater use in life cycle inventory and impact assessment’, International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 707-721.
Kulczycka, J 2008, LCA for minimisation of environmental impact of wastes from zinc and lead industry, Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakov.
Milà i Canals, Ll, Chenoweth, J, Chapagain, A, Orr, S, Antón, A & Clift, R 2009, ‘Assessing freshwater use impacts in LCA part I: inventory modelling and characterisation factors for the main impact pathways’, International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 28-42.
Motoshita, M, Itsubo, N, Inaba, A 2010, ‘Development of impact factors on damage to health by infectious diseases caused by domestic water scarcity’, International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 65-73.
Nalco 2013, Hoja técnica Nalco 8181, floculante potable, Asociación Nacional de la Industria Química, Mexico, viewed 2 January 2013,
Northey, SA, Haque, N, Lovel, R & Cooksey, MA 2014, ‘Evaluating the application of water footprint methods to primary metal production systems’, Minerals Engineering, vol. 69, pp. 65-80.
Peck, P 2007, ‘Avoiding tailings dam failures – good practice in prevention’, Workshop on the Safety of Tailings Management Facilities, UNEP GRID Arendal and IIIEE , Lund University, Lund.
Pfister, S, Koehler, A, Hellweg, S 2009, ‘Assessing the environmental impacts of freshwater consumption in LCA’, Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 43, no. 11, pp. 4098-4104.
Rowe, J 2012, The future of water in the mining industry, International Mine Water Association, viewed 10 October 2014,
Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc. 2012, Mining and the use, quality and availability of water, SME, Englewood, viewed 6 October 2014, www.smenet.org/docs/public/MiningandtheUseQualityandAvailabilityofWater.docx
Triantou, AD 2009, ‘Carbon, energy and water footprint of three Akzo Nobel internal sizing chemicals: a cradle to gate LCA related study’, Master of Science thesis, Royal Institute of Technology.
Vörösmarty, CJ, Green, P, Salisbury, J & Lammers, RB 2000, ‘Global water resources: vulnerability from climate change and population growth’, Science, vol. 289, no. 5477, pp. 284-288.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland 2014, Water footprint, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, viewed 20 October 2014, www.vtt.fi/research/technology/water_footprint.jsp?lang=en
Water Footprint Network 2011, WaterStat, Water Footprint Network, Enschede, viewed 5 October 2014, www.waterfootprint.org
World Business Council for Sustainable Development 2010, The global water tool, WBCSD, Geneva, viewed 3 October 2010,
Wennberg, T 2010, ‘Transporting highly concentrated slurries with centrifugal pumps: The thickened minerals tailings example’, Licentiate thesis, Luleå University of Technology.
United Nations World Water Assessment Programme 2009, ‘Water in a changing world’, UNESCO Publishing, Paris, viewed 11 March 2015, webworld.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/wwdr3/pdf/WWDR3_Water_in_a_Changing_World.pdf