The uptake of a tool to assist the mining sector in implementing the principles of water conservation and water demand management (WC/WDM), has been “overwhelmingly positive”, Minerals Council South Africa head of environment Stephinah Mudau tells Mining Weekly.
The WC/WDM self-assessment reporting tool (WSART), developed through an initiative led by the Minerals Council, is designed to be used by the mining industry to assess WC/WDM implementation at mine sites.
The software tool can be downloaded and used free of charge. It was developed within the Microsoft Excel platform, making it compatible with most Microsoft Windows-based operating systems.
“The tool empowers mines to become responsible water users by helping them to know, manage and improve their water management status,” Mudau says.
The WSART was developed in collaboration with consulting firm Golder Associates to support the implementation guideline for WC/WDM, as published by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), and is a response to the industry’s call for guidance in implementing the DWS’ prescribed methodology.
“A tool like this has been long awaited, since there has been no guidance on how to ensure that proper water conservation, water demand and water management measures are maintained in the local mining industry,” Mudau says.
Research shows that, globally, it is one of the first tools of its kind to be developed by a mining association, she adds.
“South Africa is a water-scarce country, and there is competition for this scarce resource among industries. Therefore, WC/WDM is critical to ensure sustainable water use in the mining industry,” Mudau says.
The WSART had a soft launch in August last year which included a training session whereby members were encouraged to use the tool and provide feedback. A window during which to test the final product lasted from August to December. The feedback provided during this time was used to update and refine the tool.
A second training session was scheduled for March this year, but these plans were disrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19. Mudau says the Minerals Council is converting course materials and presentations into an online training format, which will be made available before the end of the year.
The Minerals Council is looking at developing a virtual training session aimed at those companies that could not engage in the first training session, and will serve as a follow-up session for those companies already implementing the tool to assist them to take full advantage of its updated features.
“We see this as a dynamic tool and we expect ongoing revisions and enhancements in years to come. The tool has been designed in such a way to be easy to update,” Mudau explains.
In addition to simplifying the implementation of WC/WDM, the WSART will help to ensure consistency and standardisation with regard to the approach taken by mining companies towards developing site water balances, as well as with calculations and the reporting of WC/WDM plans.
“Many mining companies use their in-house-developed models and tools for this according to their own localised circumstances, but industrywide standardisation has been sorely needed. This tool also serves to complement the in-house models,” she explains.
Mudau stresses that, in developing the tool, existing industry best practices were consulted and incorporated where possible.
What the Tool Does
The tool is designed to assist mining companies in creating a water management strategy to understand demand and water supply requirements. It helps mining companies to identify initiatives for better water management to realise more efficient use and subsequent water savings.
It assesses fit-for-purpose water requirements and the level of water reuse and recycling required, thereby reducing treatment costs. The tool also allows for clear management reporting of the water management status on site, the future prediction of the state of water management on site and remedial measures.
The WSART will provide a site-specific five-year WC/WDM plan, as well as site-specific water efficiencies and comparisons with industry benchmarks.
“The mine personnel can gauge the amount of water coming into the site, the amount leaving the site and the amount being recycled over the period. This will indicate the impact of the WC/WDM plan as it is carried out,” Mudau explains.
The tool not only assesses a mine’s water use but also addresses the quality of the water-related data entered. The data is categorised as measured, modelled, calculated and estimated, with the accuracy of the WC/WDM indicators being determined from the percentage of data added.
Moreover, the quality of the water used at a mine is categorised and the water quality category percentage is shown as a trend for the five-year WC/WDM plan.
“The WSART not only promotes efficient and responsible water use but also helps mines to remain compliant in terms of the water-use licence conditions,” Mudau says, concluding that using the tool could become mandatory in future because it has been shown to be highly effective in managing mine water regimes.