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Conference Proceedings

Water in Mining 2006

Conference Proceedings

Water in Mining 2006

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Sustainable Water Use in Minerals and Metal Production

In this paper, life cycle assessment methodology has been used to assess the variations in water use associated with different metal production and processing routes and provide insights into the value derived from water usage in the minerals sector. Using water consumption data derived from the literature it has been shown that the cradle-to-gate' water consumption (or embodied water) for production of the various metals considered in the study ranged from 2.9 m3/t for steel up to 252 087 m3/t for gold. The results largely reflect the grade of the initial ore used to produce each metal, and can be approximated by the following equation: W = 167.7 G - 0.9039 where: W = embodied water (m3/t refined metal) G = grade of ore used to produce metal (per cent metal) The study showed that indirect water consumption in the metal production life cycle, in particular that due to electricity generation, can make a significant contribution to the embodied water value, eg aluminium production. When expressed in terms of m3/t ore, the results for all metals considered indicated that the embodied water is roughly, on average, three times the water consumption of the mining and concentration stage. It was also shown that the economic value per m3 of water consumed for the minerals industry exceeds that for the agricultural and industrial sectors, supporting the view that allocating water resources to the minerals industry has a strong underlying economic basis._x000D_
Water reforms currently taking place in Australia aim to address issues such as competition for water access, reduced security of supply and increase in cost. Consequently the minerals industry, along with others, can be expected to come under increasing pressure to reduce fresh or raw water use and to integrate water use across sectors. While water recycling is an obvious candidate to help reduce water consumption in the minerals industry, issues such as water quality, among others, will influence the extent to which this can be achieved._x000D_
In addition, wastewater volumes can be minimised using techniques such as pinch analysis to establish and use the minimum water requirement for the process. The use of dry or near-dry processing technologies, for which the demand for water is small or zero, may be a more radical solution to the water consumption problem; however, it is possible that the introduction of dry processing would bring with it a new set of problems, including dust._x000D_
FORMAL CITATION:Norgate, T E and Lovel, R R, 2006. Sustainable water use in minerals and metal production, in Proceedings Water in Mining 2006, pp 331-340 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).
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  • Published: 2005
  • PDF Size: 0.181 Mb.
  • Unique ID: P200610043

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