Water is our most important resource. We all have a responsibility to use water wisely.
Mines need water for minerals processing, dust control, staff facilities and irrigation. Mines can use a large proportion of the available water in a given location, but we only use around 1.5% of the state’s water (ABS) and every drop is used as efficiently as possible.
We get water from a variety of sources, like rivers, groundwater aquifers, rainfall, water recycled on site, town effluent, potable water supply or water supplied by a third party such as another mine.
Sometimes low quality water, like treated effluent and saline groundwater, can be used. Using low quality water can have environmental benefits and also leaves higher quality water for other users in the community. Mines often have on-site water treatment facilities so that low quality water can be made suitable for use. We also recycle a high proportion of water on site, with some mines recycling and reusing up to 80% of their water
We have management plans to monitor water quality and quantity, including daily and weekly water balances to measure the volume and quality of water inflows, current storage on site, usage, losses, recycling, and any discharges. This information, plus predicted operational requirements and weather patterns, is used to plan for future water use.
Sometimes mining can impact the quantity or quality of local water resources, for example, when mining activities intersect aquifers, or mine subsidence affects aquifers or rivers. Runoff and discharges are regulated in compliance with Environment Protection Licences to ensure that impacts are minimised. All potential impacts are assessed during planning approval and measures are taken to reduce impacts to acceptable levels. Ongoing monitoring makes sure impacts are measured and mitigated.
There are systems in place to minimise the impact of water discharges from mines into the environment. One example is the Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme
, an innovative market based scheme that controls discharges of saline water into the Hunter River by mines and power stations.