Research and Tools

Research and Tools


The water related challenges that the mining and gas industries face span operational, social and environmental considerations. CWiMI’s research falls within four themes to address these considerations.

Water Management

CWiMI has pioneered approaches that promote efficiency, transparency, reduced costs, and lower risks for mine water management. CWiMI promotes sustainable water management to help the minerals industry secure enough water for production and operate in appropriate locations, whilst minimising negative environmental impacts and maintaining a social licence to operate.

Projects:

Hierarchical Systems Modelling (HSM)

The mining industry faces three long term strategic risks in relation to its water and energy use: 1) securing enough water and energy to meet increased production; 2) reducing water use, energy consumption and emissions due to social, environmental and economic pressures; and 3) understanding the links between water and energy, so that an improvement in one area does not create a greater adverse effect in another.

The Hierarchical Systems Modelling (HSM) is a flowsheet-style software tool with a graphical user interface, which represents water, energy, and emissions interactions on mine sites and surrounding regions. The tool can be used to build models at various spatial scales and levels of complexity, and includes facilities for economic analysis and integrated risk analysis.

The HSM also allows multiple sites and other infrastructure to be connected together to explore regional water and energy interactions. The HSM can be driven with historical or synthetic climate data to simulate the water and energy consumption of mine systems, as well as generation of carbon emissions, over time. This allows for high-level scenario analysis of various water management strategies, as well as benchmarking of current performance.

Development of the HSM tool was supported by ACARP funding and is available for use in contract research. Please contact Greg Keir for more information.

Minerals Council of Australia Water Accounting Framework

The Minerals Council of Australia Water Accounting Framework (WAF), developed in collaboration with the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry (CWiMI), is a standard methodology to represent, record and communicate a site’s water performance thereby, allowing for valid comparisons between companies and transparent communication of water performance, contributing towards the preservation of a social licence to operate.

The WAF is concerned with (1) the reporting of water inputs and outputs as described in the Input-Output Model and (2) the reporting of water reuse and recycling efficiencies as described in the Operational Model. In 2011, the MCA endorsed the adoption of the Input-Output Model, requiring members to align company metrics and reporting to be consistent with the WAF definitions. In 2014, the MCA endorsed the use of the water quality categories of the WAF.

CWiMI can facilitate capacity building workshops to help the industry implement the WAF.  The workshops teach participants a foundation of the WAF and how to develop their own water accounts. Since 2010, over 250 industry professionals have attended our workshops.

We offer a range of workshops that can be tailored according to the needs of stakeholders.

Please contact Greg Keir for further information.

Hydrology and Hydrogeology

CWiMI is helping the mining and gas industries effectively manage their water interactions. CWiMI’s goal is to accurately quantify and advise on surface and subsurface hydrological risks that can affect mine and gas operations.

Projects:

CCSG Projects

CWiMI, in partnership with the Centre for Coal Seam Gas, delivered on milestones for three projects.

The Water Atlas Feasibility study created visualisation and analytical tools with the aim of enabling non-specialists to extract, analyse and view water chemistry and geology data simultaneously. The project outcomes will be used in the next stage of research, Development of a water chemistry atlas for the Surat Basin CSG areas.

The Groundwater Uses project will achieve better estimates of abstraction volumes for non-CSG related activities in the Surat and Bowen Basins. The estimates are critical inputs to numerical models that are currently used to assess the potential impacts of CSG production on groundwater resources.

Similarly Recharge estimation in the Surat Basin seeks to improve estimates of groundwater recharge in the Surat Basin for use in models through a better understanding of the mechanisms of recharge.

Water Sensitive Mining (ARC Future Fellowship)

Mining changes the hydrology of our catchments through its dynamic influence on vegetation, soils, geology, and water storage, consumption, diversions and discharges. This presents risks and opportunities for the catchment-scale value of water resources. The project will build on previous research to develop new knowledge about how the value of water can be shared in mining regions. The research will develop the scientific and decision-support basis for a new level of water stewardship by mining companies and land and water governance bodies. The research funded by an ARC Future Fellowship will cover:

•             Dynamics of landscapes and hydrology in mining regions

•             Detection and attribution of cumulative impacts over mine life cycles

•             The multiple values of water and effective metrics of value

•             Balancing complexity and utility in decision support models

•             Modelling the cumulative benefits of site scale water solutions

Please contact Neil McIntyre for more information.

Hydrochemistry and Aquatic Ecology

CWiMI is helping the mining and gas industries achieve effective management of water and protection of freshwater ecosystems. CWiMI’s goal is to understand water quantity and quality interactions in surface and ground water systems to promote ecologically sustainable development and to provide expert advice on catchment water management.

Projects:

Reducing Water Monitoring Costs using DGT

Funded by ACARP, we seek to trial a new in-situ method for determining heavy metal and arsenic concentrations which will be cheaper than conventional methods and more representative of in-stream concentrations over the monitoring period. The method, called Diffusive Gradient Technique (DGT), measures heavy metal and arsenic concentrations by uptake onto a resin.

Purpose: The project aims to trial a new real-time in situ sampling method of DGT for determining labile heavy metal and arsenic concentrations in river water receiving mine water releases. The outcomes of this project will provide more accurate information on water quality and a lower water monitoring cost than conventional sampling methods.

Significance and Innovation: The premise of the DGT approach is to integrate the concentration of labile metals and metalloids in the water throughout the deployment period (hours/days to weeks). The instantaneous grab sample is representative of a time-integrated sample only when the variability in water quality is low on the timescales of sampling. If however, an aquatic system hosts some degree of variability (such as is often the case where mine-water is discharged into a natural water course), then grab samples are not comparable to the time-integrated assay yielded by DGT. One DGT unit could potentially replace numerous water samples and will provide a far more representative view of in-stream concentrations over the monitoring period.

Other advantages of the DGT technique for water monitoring are

  1. The labile metals and metalloids accumulated on the DGT gel is known to mimic biological uptake of these constituents thereby providing a more robust indication of toxicity to aquatic organisms.
  2. Under low metal/loid concentrations which may be below the detection limits of the ICP-MS, DGT has the benefit of concentrating the elements of interest to levels which can be determined using ICP-MS.
  3. The in-situ DGT capture of heavy metals and metalloids will reduce the possibility of contamination of water samples during collection that can easily occur in low concentration waters.