The minerals industry and the services sector that it supports is the powerhouse of the Australian economy. As the global population multiplies and migrates towards cities and urban areas, demand for Australian minerals and metals increases. At the same time, the quality of known Australian ores is diminishing.
Both these trends place increasing pressure on water as a critical input to industrial processing, mining and metals production. Access to water is seen by the sector as a critical business imperative and in regional areas industry can be the main water user as well as a key water supplier.
Australia’s economic development has been influenced by the availability of water. Along with reliable access to water, industry needs effective water management, treatment and disposal.
Our resources sector mostly operates in regional and remote areas. In some cases, the industry competes for water with regional communities and agriculture.
This has all led to the recognition that water is a valuable business asset with social, cultural, environmental and economic value.
It has spearheaded the development of a framework for strategic water management in the minerals industry, produced jointly by the Minerals Council of Australia and the Ministerial Council on Minerals and Petroleum Resources. Its underlying principle is that industry cannot take water for granted, and that water has a major role to play in the environment and in the economic development of regions and communities.
This approach is leading towards five trends for water in industry:
- increasing aspiration for integrated regional water supply management
- reducing water consumption through improved operational practice and through innovation and technology
- water substitution in operations
- effective valuation of water as a regional resource
- management of waste and protection of groundwater.