The world doesn't stand a chance without water
Posted: November 17, 2016 /
Water scarcity is among the main problems facing many societies in the 21st century. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and, although there is no ‘global’ water scarcity as such, an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water. Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for the seven-odd billion population, but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.
We have a responsibility
not only as individuals, but also as a business to
ensure we play our part in ensuring the sustainability of our world’s natural
resources. Sustainability, minimising harm and
redressing environmental wrongs is all about taking a long-term perspective, and
that is core to what we do as a business.
Dave Walker, Technical Director, Mining & Minerals spoke to Mining Magazine about
some of the key issues of water resourcing within the sector and gave examples around the world where SLR has been involved in:
one or more aspects of sourcing water
conserving water resources
meeting the challenges of
conflicting resources demands
minimising impacts on water
addressing legacy issues to
reduce existing impacts or clean up damage already
Over the next four weeks first of the articles
looks at the role environmental concerns and government regulations
play in water sourcing for mines.
role of government regulations and internationally accepted guidelines (e.g.
IFC) is clear; They provide a general basis for decision making, protection of
rights, arbitration and impact management through a combination of rewards
(permits, concessions, etc.) and punishment (fines, permit revocation, and other
punitive measures) for infractions. It is the function of the regulator to apply
and police the rules.
The shortcoming of any rules based
implementation comes when balancing competing rights to access to water
resources, allowing limited impacts, or the rational apportionment of either
cost or blame as the case may be to redress wrongdoing.
This is where environmental concerns such
as consultants and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a role to play.
Consultants are by and large impartial and act in an impartial fashion with a
combination of scientific rigour and technology applications to affect
balanced, risk based outcomes. Whilst some could and do argue that
a consultant employed by any one of a number of vested interest parties is
biased, there is a self-limiting imperative to this line of reasoning:
environmental practitioners rely on reputation as trusted advisors with
proponent and regulator alike to maintain a successful and sustainable business.
The unscrupulous, partial or biased practitioner quickly runs out of trust
credits on one or more sides of difficult decision making and therefore limiting
poor advice. This is why successful environmental consultancies like us are
adamant on immutable topics of ethics, social conscience and trust; indeed are
key elements of corporate identity and strategy.
This does not mean all consultants will
agree absolutely on every issue, but there is more than a fair chance that
differences are in details of interpretation and not gross negligence or
SLR was recently hired to determine the
water needs for a new 500 Mt gold mine in northern Ontario Canada. SLR
performed the overall mine water balance analyses to determine the amount of
water that could be recycled form the tailings storage facility and how much
would need to be drawn from local lakes. In order to ensure withdrawal from the
local lakes would not result in any environmental damage, SLR established a
regional hydrologic and lake water balance model that simulated the effect of
the withdrawals on half-a-dozen lake levels during average, wet and dry periods
as well as projecting levels 50 years in the future under climate change
conditions. This model was then used to establish a lake withdrawal system and
withdrawal schedules that prevented any significant changes to lake water levels
and which would not cause any environmental harm.