Managing Water, Managing Risk

CIM Montreal 2015
Emily Moore (Hatch Ltd.)
The recent focus on increasing operating efficiency has led many mining companies to look at how they can reduce the cost of water management in operations. There are hard costs associated with sourcing, treating, moving and managing water and a sophisticated water balance that takes into account the costs of these activities is a good place to start. However, water management is more than an operating issue, and measuring the true cost of water is a complex challenge. Risks and opportunities associated with water - from managing community relations, to project permitting delays, to production upsets due to water source interruptions, to ongoing closure liabilities - can all be quantified and many different groups are working to develop easy to use risk monetization tools.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion of the concept of “Integrated Water Management” for mining. However, a gap exists between the concept of integrated water management and its application to real world cases. One reason for the complexity is the difficulty in making timely decisions that mitigate risk in the future stages of a mine, while expediting project development in the short run. Another is the nature of decision making processes at operating mines which tend to favour band-aid approaches in the interest of time and capital cost, but which may result in inefficient and ultimately ineffective solutions.

This presentation will outline the economic case for investing in water management strategies that look at the entire mine development cycle, from permitting to closure, and suggest approaches to improve adoption of water strategies and frameworks. A process developed to assist mining companies in mapping the various considerations for water management along the life cycle of mine project development will be described, highlighting key decision making points and the potential impact of early consideration of issues on project viability, operating costs and closure costs.
Keywords: water, cost, management, community relations, risk
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