Climate change has been a topic of discussion in the mining industry for the past decade. Still, projections of heavier precipitation, drought, and heat indicate climate challenges will become more frequent and intense, increasing the physical challenges to mining operations.
In this post, Group 11 Technologies is going to dive deeper into the effects of water stress and flooding to help you better understand the implications of climate change for the mining industry and what you can do about it:
Under normal weather conditions, a mine site has plentiful supplies of water that can be used for operations, such as dust suppression, flushing, cooling, and washing. But in a weather event, like a drought or heavy rainfall, water flow to a mine could be disrupted or even completely cut off. When this happens, mine operations can be suspended and even shut down.
Water Stress and Mining Operations
The complexity of climate change impacts is the difficulty of responding to these challenges. For example, a mine may be located over aquifers that are not directly connected to surface systems.
In other cases, the mine may have all its requirements met by surface water sources located downstream from the mine site. A sudden change in the amount or quality of this surface water could dry up water supplies for the mine, resulting in a suspension of operations.
Climate change is also expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather. Droughts and floods will become more common, potentially disrupting and even shutting down the water supply to a mine site.
This could have a significant impact on mining operations. So, it’s not just a matter of how much water is available, but also how long supply may be disrupted—especially during long-term mining activities like mining excavation or underground mining.
The risks for flooding are similar to those for drought. A mine may be located in a low-lying area where flooding is a regular risk. In this case, a flood can lead to damage or disruption of mining operations.
Flooding can also result from a storm surge. A storm surge is a meteorological event when an intense storm, particularly a tropical cyclone, tracks along a coastline.
Storm surge flooding can occur far from the storm itself and overwhelm natural defences or flood control infrastructure.
Flooding can disrupt mining operations in two ways:
1. Flooding can damage mine infrastructures located outside the mine, such as roads and buildings.
2. Flooding can block access to the mine itself or even completely inundate it.
Flooding can also impact the safety and health of employees and disrupt operations at the mine and logistics centers.
What Can You Do About These Problems?
The need to address climate change and adapt to its impacts is a priority for many organizations, including the mining industry.
One of the most critical steps to take is implementing a climate action plan that includes a clear set of targets and a clear deadline for completion.
It should also include an understanding of the cost of not taking action. A climate action plan should show an understanding of climate change’s causes, impacts, and consequences.
As with any action plan, making it part of the corporate strategy is key.
Adapting to climate change takes forward-thinking, collaboration, planning, and investment. Mining organizations should work together to identify mitigation and adaptation strategies that fit with their corporate strategy. Non-invasive mineral extraction is an option that mining companies should certainly explore.
Group 11 Technologies is dedicated to the development and use of environmentally responsible non-invasive mineral extraction technologies. Contact us today to learn more about this!