Framework for assessing potential local and cumulative effects of mining on groundwater resources

Ecosystems Sustainability Rural conditions Industries Water Australia
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To operate effectively, mining operations often need access to substantial volumes of water.

While water consumption used by the mining industry is less than two per cent of the total estimated water use across Australia, the effect of operations on local groundwater resources can be significant and can impact on other water users.

A key principle of the National Water Initiative (NWI) principle is that all water users require an equitable basis from which to share groundwater and surface water resources.

The Commission recognises that groundwater use by mining operations needs to be managed rigorously and consistently.

In 2008 the Commission funded the $1.8 million Potential local and cumulative effects of mining on groundwater resources project under the National Groundwater Action Plan.

The purpose of the project was to assist the states and territories to consider the cumulative impacts of mining operations within NWI compliant land use planning processes.

The project produced an initial waterlines report detailing water issues for jurisdictional planning for mining. The major project outputs include a framework and a set of supporting tools for use by jurisdictions and mining companies.  These will allow them to perform nationally-consistent, risk based assessments of the cumulative impacts of mining on groundwater resources.

The framework was tested and refined in a range of geological, hydrological and land use contexts across four Australian regions:

  • Hamersley/Pilbara in Western Australia
  • Eromanga in South Australia 
  • Charters Towers in Queensland
  • the Hunter Valley in New South Wales

This final Waterlines report sets out:

  • a final overview of the project approach
  • project outcomes and findings
  • key issues to be considered in implementing the framework

The report sets out a sequential process of assessment to identify the nature, scale and magnitude or risks associated with mining impacts on groundwater.

A series of eighteen technical reports detailing the various components of the project are also available.

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