Authors: Kuyucak, N; Palkovits, F

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Kuyucak, N & Palkovits, F 2009, 'Integrated Approach to Water Management', in R Jewell, AB Fourie, S Barrera & J Wiertz (eds), Paste 2009: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 151-159,

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The increasing regulatory and social demand for the environmentally conscious disposal of mining waste products, the escalating demand of fresh water resources and the disposal of mine and process water back into the environment are some of the key issues affecting mining community and, ultimately, affecting the cost of mining operations. The overwhelming desire to use less process water and to reduce the footprint caused by the disposal of waste materials ranks high on the lists of required actions for mining companies, regulatory agencies, communities and environmental groups. One component of an overall solution which is becoming widely accepted is the use of dewatered tailings which, as part an integrated process approach, returns the surplus water to the mill for re-use. For many processes, this allows immediate recycle of process water hence reduces the amount of impacted water therefore the cost of treating it. It also means that there is less of a need for make-up water. As a result, cost savings can be created in a number of applications around water management including environmental permitting, energy consumption, cost of equipment and water transportation. The integrated approach also considers the sludge by-products from water treatment. In most cases, the sludge is deposited separately from the tailings, waste rock and other waste materials. However, combining these materials may well reduce the geographic footprint of the mine’s waste. A smaller footprint means less area for which a permit must be sought as well as less area that must be monitored during operation and post-closure. This creates flexibility regarding where the waste can be deposited, and reduces operating costs and post-closure liabilities. The paper will discuss advantages of an integrated approach to managing mine wastes and mine water as well as water produced as part of the tailings management process using case studies.

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