World Water Day: The path to zero emission mining

By Daniel Brightmore
Water at the heart of a new effort by Australia’s copper industry as it begins a ‘deep tech dive’ in to how to use water more efficiently...

Copper miners Sandfire Resources and Anglo American, the International Copper Association Australia and the Global Copper Alliance have sponsored the Zero Emissions project. The project is ocused on six processes - Baseline water balance, Dewatering of mine sites, Desalination, Operational water use, Tailings and Recycling.

The United Nations has designated today March 22 as ‘World Water Day’, an opportunity to reflect on water sustainability and global development. Of course, copper has always played a central role in delivering clean water to people and industry.

The impact of water on Australia’s $10bn copper mining industry was stark during the 2017-2020 drought where production was disrupted by a lack of water at a number of the country’s copper production facilities. It is also an issue faced by many companies in other countries like Chile where water efficiency is crucial to keeping production on track.

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The Technology Roadmap on the Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future (ZECMotF) launched last year, will ultimately tackle five key themes to achieving cleaner, greener copper mining - water, material movement, minerals processing, discovery and ventilation. 

The water ‘deep tech dive’ is already up and running. Working with miners, government, the private sector, startups, a range of expert research groups and the broader community, the project is expected to generate technology, environmental and cost benefits to Australian miners and businesses for years to come. 

The project is run under an Executive Council through a Technical Management Committee, focusing on the ‘deep dive” through three separate Research Working Groups that are made up of topic experts from around the world. It is expected to report by mid-May 2021 and release to the industry in June.

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