Sustainability Mining: Water for Mining, and Mining Water
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management
This chapter examines the multifaceted nature of the relationship between water and mining. Several perspectives are offered. Mines are located to gain access to the mineral, but this is always in the context of water. The conditions under which the water has carved a catchment are strongly influenced by the climatic regime and the geological foundations under which the soil has been formed and vegetation has evolved. Mining is an embedded activity, located unambiguously in a landscape shaped by water. Mining as an activity must have a strategy for accessing, disposing of and using water. Mining relies on water for its operation, often using it intensively to achieve its production quota. This chapter also explores the relationship between mining and the use of water in the urban setting. Engineering feats, technological developments and regulatory frameworks facilitated by a history of mining in Western Australia (WA) have led to accessibility and exploitation of water for other purposes. How water is extracted can be likened to ‘mining water’ and how the treatment of water for human consumption uses mining by-products is considered. These perspectives highlight societal vulnerabilities to the environmental, psychological, sociocultural and political impacts of mining, that go beyond traditional perspectives of the advantages or disadvantages and cost benefit analysis of mining in society. The consequence of this traditional perspective is that water can be treated solely as a commodity, while other values of water are overlooked. Reconsidering the fundamental value and importance of water to society together with the embedded nature of mines in the landscape enables an insightful perspective on the contribution that mining and water make to society. Secondly, recognising the influence that mining has on patterns of water use, regulation and distribution may enable further consideration of sustainable water use in other settings.