Cost-Effectiveness of Strategies to Reduce Water Consumption in the Copper Mining Industry

Aitken, Douglas; Rivera, Diego; Godoy-Faundez, Alex


The copper mining industry is under great pressure globally to reduce its water intensity due to heightened water scarcity in many of the world’s mining areas. There are numerous techniques mining operations can implement to reduce their water consumption such as dewatering of tailings, pre-sorting of ore, the use of dust binders for road dust suppression and covering ponds and tanks to reduce evaporation. The effectiveness of these techniques has been under investigation yet little research has been conducted examining the cost relative to effectiveness. This paper investigates the most effective techniques in the mining industry for reducing water consumption and values of cost-effectiveness are calculated for each technique. Data for the analysis was obtained from industrial suppliers of mining technology. A typical copper mine was modelled with respect to water consumption and the selected technologies were implemented into the model. The water saving potential and the net present value were calculated for comparison using the capital and operating costs. The results demonstrated that road dust suppression using a dust suppressant product provided the lowest cost to water savings ratio. Dewatering of tailings provided the greatest water savings but at a far higher cost, the most cost-effective option was calculated to be high rate thickening followed by flocculation. This research is very important for the copper mining industry as both water saving potential and costs need to be optimized.

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Fecha de publicación: 2016
Año de Inicio/Término: May 18-20
Idioma: English