Tag Archives: water management

ICMM looks to advance water stewardship across mining sector with new framework

ICMM has published a Water Stewardship Maturity Framework designed to help mining and metals companies enhance their stewardship of shared water resources in ways that are socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial, it says.

Featuring a range of leading practices and real-world examples from different operating contexts, the framework addresses risks and priorities applicable at individual asset and corporate levels. It identifies five elements of water stewardship: governance and strategy; understanding water context, risks and opportunities; integration in business planning and decision making; performance and measurement; and transparency and reporting. It also outlines three progressive stages within these elements – basic, advanced and leading.

The framework is intended to support users to effectively manage water as a shared resource, acknowledging its critical importance, not only to the business, but also to the broader local catchment and its stakeholders, ICMM said. It supports the integration of water’s pivotal role into various corporate agendas, such as climate resilience, cultural heritage protection, nature-positive approaches, social performance and inclusion, and operational excellence.

The framework aligns with leading external guidance and reporting initiatives, including the Global Reporting Initiative, Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosure and the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosure.

Rohitesh Dhawan, CEO and President, ICMM, said: “Access to water is a basic human right and a fundamental requirement for healthy, functioning ecosystems. We live in a world of increasing pressure on water resources, compounded by the impact of climate change. We hope that ICMM’s Water Stewardship Maturity Framework will be a valuable tool to advance water stewardship across our industry and to navigate the challenges in delivering critical minerals for a more sustainable future.”

Martin Preece, Interim CEO, Gold Fields, said: “ICMM’s Water Stewardship Maturity Framework will help companies like ours to advance sustainable water management. Water Stewardship is one of our six key ESG priorities, as water is a critical resource we share with our host communities and host countries. The self-assessment and verification process carried out by all our mines, gives us the confidence that we are managing water responsibly and helps us build trust with our stakeholders, particularly host communities.”

The new framework, developed with input from water and environmental experts from ICMM’s membership, draws on members’ experiences, providing clear pathways and examples to support enhanced water stewardship practices across the industry, ICMM said.

Caterpillar looks to reduce haul road dust with new Cat 777 (05) Water Solutions Truck

Caterpillar has released a new water truck that, it says, provides an integrated solution to help reduce haul road dust by solving overwatering and underwatering issues.

The new Cat® 777 (05) Water Solutions Truck is built on the Cat 777E truck platform, proven at mine, quarry and construction sites globally. An innovative truck that uses less water for controlling haul road dust, the design integrates the truck, tank and water delivery system, connected with technology, the company says. Its Cat Water Delivery System (WDS) combines with Cat MineStar Edge™ connectivity to help operations manage the site more safely and productively with flexible levels of technology to meet site needs.

Boasting a 75,700 litre Cat-branded water tank, the 777 (05) comes complete with spray system, splash guards, fill chute and rock ejectors. It is powered by the 765 kW Cat C32B engine that meets China Nonroad Stage III emission standards, equivalent to US EPA Tier 2.

The new water truck’s exclusive Cat WDS features a self-contained hydraulic system that controls spray patterns independent of engine rpm for consistent watering, Caterpillar says. Variable water flow, based on the truck’s speed, automatically starts and stops when the truck slows or comes to a halt, preventing overwatering and subsequent poor traction at road intersections. The pump features soft start-ups and automatically shuts off when the tank is empty to prevent system damage.

WDS components include a water cannon, oil cooler, variable displacement pump, hydraulic oil tank, electronic control boxes and hydraulic motor/water pump. Covering up to a 24-m-wide road in a single pass, the system sprays at rates reaching 0.8 litres/sq.m at speeds from 4-40 km/h. With its maximum 61 m spray distance, the truck’s water cannon offers a maximum flow rate reaching 4,732 litres/min.

Factory-installed, ergonomic water controls are integrated into the truck’s design for convenient system operation, Caterpillar says. Its automated water delivery feature enables the operator to remain focused on driving and site traffic to enhance safety. Complete with auto shut-off to prevent overfilling, the water tank is filled remotely, allowing the operator to remain inside the cab during the cycle to reduce potential operator slips and falls.

Flexible levels of the cloud-based MineStar Edge technology are integrated with the Cat WDS to collect and communicate machine data, allowing site supervisors to monitor the water truck to know where and when it’s spraying water. Asset management options include productivity, water usage, fuel and water tank levels, when and where to apply water, geofencing, asset location and remote management of water distribution.

Providing tracking capabilities without the need for infrastructure investment, Edge Equipment Tracking delivers basic connectivity without interfering with existing fleet management systems. Equipment Tracking helps to achieve a lower total cost of ownership, providing insights to help mines better manage their assets, the company said. It features service meter readings, fuelling and recording data, location accuracy and replay, time utilisation tracking with downtime and operator tracking, automatic stoppage measurement and health event recording.

Paired with Equipment Tracking, MineStar Edge Production Recording delivers premium connectivity with an accurate and automated near-real-time measurement solution that reports on every aspect of the watering cycle without requiring operator input. Giving visibility to the entire operation, it helps to discover opportunities for improving productivity. This premium package also includes water usage by truck/fill station, volume and rate of water put down over time and area covered, water delivery system setting by location, truck, and conditions, activity breakdown with time and distance – watering, not watering, stopped, etc.

This integrated system with Cat-branded tank options is fully supported by the Cat dealer and parts network. Covered by the Caterpillar factory standard warranty, the water truck, including tank and components, is eligible for Cat equipment protection plans and customer value agreements. Cat dealer installation of the integrated system is available, and retrofit kits for existing Cat 777E truck platforms in the field have planned availability in the future.

Mining, slurry and the human side of leak detection in Latin America

Mining in Latin America is a large scale, well established activity, Atmos International Sales Engineer, Rodrigo Salgado, writes. Latin America accounts for 50% of the world’s silver production, 40% of the global production of copper and 35% of the world’s lithium.¹

*Data correct as of 2021. This is a work derived by Atmos International from IEA material and Atmos International is solely liable and responsible for this derived work. The derived work is not endorsed by the IEA in any manner.
Figure 1: Latin America’s shares in the production of selected minerals

With the region holding a significant share in the production and reserves of the world’s minerals, mining has historically made up between 13% and 19% of Latin America’s direct investment from foreign territories and mining consistently remains a focal part of the economy in the region, but at what cost?

This article looks at the human involvement in Latin American mining and slurry pipeline operations, from the humans impacted by mining operations to the humans who are instrumental in providing vital leak detection support.

Social responsibility challenges facing Latin American mining companies

The ethics of desalination

A substantial amount of water is used every day to sustain the Latin American mining industry’s operational processes, whether that be for mineral processing, separation and extraction, or to facilitate the transportation of ores across long distances in slurry pipelines.² The mining industry requires uncontaminated water too, so it’s also worth noting that desalinated water is often used to support mining operations, a process which can involve many methods.

The most common method for desalination in the mining industry is via reverse osmosis, which requires seawater to pass over a membrane under high pressure conditions to filter out the minerals and other contaminants, creating desalinated water.³

Figure 2: A mining and slurry pipeline operation which uses desalinated water extracted from the sea via reverse osmosis

A water supply imbalance

The high quantity and quality of water required by the Latin American mining industry today is occurring at the same time widespread water shortages in residential areas are being observed. For example, the Chilean mining industry consumes an annual amount of water that could sustain 75% of its population’s needs,4 with Brazil using 1.6% of the country’s total water supply for mining which could supply the entirety of Brazil’s rural population with water, according to Salgado.

The Latin American water supply imbalance has led to many conflicts, with data from the Pastoral Land Commission indicating that 124 out of 197 recorded water-related conflicts in Brazil have occurred in areas where mining ore extraction routinely takes place,5 and this imbalance has only been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hygiene concerns caused by the pandemic meant access to safe water in hospitals, for general handwashing and in the production of alcohol in hand gel, had never been more important, especially considering the fact that at least 65 million people in Latin America had no access to soap and water.6

Consequences and considerations

With almost 55 million indigenous men and women representing 8.5% of the Latin American population7, another social issue facing mining is related to pipeline operations that infringe on indigenous people’s territories.

Just as a leak or rupture in mining operations has the potential to devastate indigenous communities, there is also a high risk to more densely populated areas, such as urban locations or locations containing wildlife. With a population density of 57 per sq.km and a rainforest that covers approximately 40% of the region containing endangered species,8 an effective leak detection system is vital for mining and slurry pipeline operations in Latin America.

The humans behind mining pipeline leak detection

Effective leak detection in the Latin American mining industry starts with water management, not only because ore extraction can contain high traces of pollutants,9 but because there are many threats to pipeline integrity in Latin America such as landslides, lahars, riverbed scour and underground erosion.

Solutions like Atmos Pipe can provide statistical volume balance analysis to detect new and existing leaks while Atmos Wave Flow can use volume balance and negative pressure wave methods for fast and accurate leak detection with high sensitivity and a low false alarm rate.

To ensure a mining and slurry operation continues to run at its optimum level, introducing the human element ensures ongoing monitoring of the pipeline, product and activity by experienced engineers who are trained to recognise unusual behaviour, Salgado says.

A batch can include batches of different products or batches of the same product but different quality, so it’s not uncommon for different batches to move through the pipeline in a mining and slurry operation, especially considering the amount of water used in a mining pipeline to transport ores. Atmos Batch is a real time batch tracking solution that enables operators to know the head and tail location of every batch and its estimated time of arrival, reducing the risk of product contamination and supports with draining and filling operations, Salgado says.

In the face of US Federal regulations requiring a record of pipeline operator training and a plan for continuous performance improvement, Atmos Trainer, meanwhile, combines elements of Atmos SIM with a SCADA user interface to provide a pipeline training environment for the operator.

In the context of mining and slurry operations, the control system can be mimicked, allowing operators to control a virtual pipeline during normal and abnormal operating conditions. Platforming pipeline operators with the training environment to understand a pipeline’s behaviors can improve confidence, reduce the risk to a real mining and slurry operation and support compliance with regulations, according to Salgado.

1 https://www.iea.org/commentaries/latin-america-s-opportunity-in-critical-minerals-for-the-clean-energy-transition

2 https://www.atmosi.com/en/news-events/blogs/what-s-mine-is-ores-how-pipeline-solutions-can-support-the-latin-american-mining-industry-s-social-responsibility-for-water-management/

3 https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2021/Q2/breakthrough-in-reverse-osmosis-may-lead-to-most-energy-efficient-seawater-desalination-ever.html#:~:text=The%20most%20widespread%20process%20for,pressure%20to%20remove%20the%20minerals

4 https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/metals-and-mining/our-insights/desalination-is-not-the-only-answer-to-chiles-water-problems

5 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214790X21001866

6 https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/waters-latin-america-and-caribbean-contributions-times-covid-19

7 https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_864176/lang–en/index.htm

8 https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/south-america-physical-geography/

9 https://www.atmosi.com/en/news-events/in-the-media/international-mining-from-slurry-to-human-consumption-water-management-in-latin-american-mining/

Eramet and EIT RawMaterials partner on water management challenge

Eramet is teaming up with the EIT RawMaterials to encourage more groundbreaking solutions to solve water management challenges within the mining and metals industry.

The Water Resource Innovation Challenge 2023 is seeking specific solutions to water-related challenges, such as safeguarding water quality by addressing concerns like pollution, wastewater management and erosion, reducing water consumption, and maximising recycling and implementing closed-loop systems in the field of hydrometallurgy.

Since water mismanagement within the mining operations can harm local communities and habitats, the industry has a heightened obligation to adopt sustainable water management practices to minimise its environmental impact while also ensuring access to valuable resources, Eramet says.

For decades, Eramet has been actively implementing water management measures in its mining ventures and has a broad portfolio of successful projects that use creative solutions in numerous locations throughout the world, including Argentina, Gabon, or New Caledonia, it says.

The ultimate goal of the challenge is to create lasting partnerships between Eramet and start-ups. This presents both an opportunity to collaborate with a global mining group at the forefront of sustainable mining solutions and to gain visibility on an international scale.

Last year’s challenge was dedicated to safety. The winner, Unusuals, proposed a solution on the use of artificial intelligence and data processing to automate maintenance of assets and detect any anomalies. Its project is currently being tested in Senegal.

This year, with the help of EIT RawMaterials, Eramet is looking to foster the next breakthrough innovation to boost the management of water to help ensure a sustainable future for the mining and metals industry.

The winner will be awarded €50,000 ($53,652) to carry out a POC (Proof Of Concept), supported by Eramet, to develop and test their solution in the field.

Bernd Schäfer, CEO, Managing Director, EIT RawMaterials, said: “Promoting sustainability in the mining and metals industry and fostering innovation are fundamental elements of EIT RawMaterials’ mission, so I am thrilled to announce our support for Eramet’s Water Resource Innovation Challenge 2023. Initiatives like this have a key role to play in providing sustainable access to strategic raw materials, and Europe’s transition to a green and digital economy.”

Marion Lenoir, Open Innovation Director at Eramet Ideas, added: “Capping water consumption and preserving its quality is a paramount global challenge. At Eramet, we believe that innovation plays a vital role in addressing this in our industry. We are excited to launch the Water Resource Innovation Challenge 2023, as we seek to discover and support the next innovator who can contribute to this crucial cause in cooperation with our teams.

Start-ups and SMEs offering solutions to preserve water quality or reduce water consumption and/or maximise recycling in mining or hydrometallurgy are invited to apply to the Water Resource Innovation Challenge 2023 from June 5 to September 13, 2023. A group of 10 pre-selected teams will be invited to participate in an online pitching round on October 25, 2023. Three finalists will be selected for the innovation seminar pitch in January 2024 and the winning team will be awarded a collaboration contract with Eramet and €50,000 in funding to realise a Proof of Concept.

Interested parties can apply here: https://open-innovation.eitrawmaterials.eu/challenges/eramet-water-2023/

BHP looks to conserve and reinforce local water resources with asset-level CBWTs

BHP, on World Environment Day, has announced new asset-level context-based water targets (CBWT) that aim to ensure local water resources are conserved and resilient.

Unlike efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which can be tracked globally by measuring tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent released into the atmosphere, there is no single agreed metric to measure water risk and performance, BHP says. Instead, there is growing acceptance that measures chosen for reporting on water should reflect the local context.

BHP’s new CBWTs have been set for many of its operated assets and will support its Water Stewardship Position Statement. They have been developed to reflect the United Nations Global Compact CEO Water Mandate guide on ‘setting site water targets informed by catchment context’, it says.

The targets aim to ensure local water resources are conserved and resilient so they can continue to support healthy ecosystems, maintain cultural and spiritual values and sustain economic activity.

Anne Dekker and Mischa Traynor, Joint Vice Presidents Environment, say with BHP operations spanning a wide range of settings including deserts, sub-tropical regions and marine habitats, the company was committed to setting context-based water targets for its operated assets.

“The context-based water targets are based on what we heard from a broad range of stakeholders and our own assessment of water-related risks and opportunities,” they said. “They include actions to address our operational water performance (like improving water efficiency), and actions which are intented for the collective benefit of stakeholders in the region, such as sharing environmental data across water and biodiversity between companies and governments.”

An example of this will be implemented at its Western Australia Iron Ore operations where at least 50% of surplus water is to be prioritised for beneficial use to improve the sustainability of regional groundwater resources, or to generate social value.

“Preferred practice for water targets, and for nature targets more broadly, is changing as the global community builds understanding on how to set meaningful and effective corporate targets and the practical steps needed to get there,” they said. “We are proud of our new water targets and the potential for positive impact on the ground.”

Context-based water targets support BHP’s 2030 Healthy environment goal as they are expected to contribute to the protection and or restoration of water-dependent ecosystems in the vicinity of our operated assets, the company says.

Earlier this year, BHP also released the first of its Water Resources Situational Analysis reports.

United thinking on mining, water solutions can save money and protect the environment, Worley says

Today, the need for extraction and refinement of copper and other transition materials is essential to world development, as we navigate a transition to more sustainable energy technologies, Saleem Varghese and Carola Sepulveda* write. But as its importance has grown, copper ore grades have decreased at a rate of approximately 25% over the last decade – increasing demand pressures on the commodity – meaning miners need to process more material to achieve the same output.

Today’s copper mines also need a lot of water. A 50,000 t/d ore copper mine will consume around 30,000 cu.m/d of fresh water. This isn’t a problem in some geographies, but it’s critical to the viability of operations in some of the most copper-rich regions on earth, such as the Americas.

Copper miners in the Americas are united by the need to secure their water supply, reduce water consumption and manage their environmental impacts. What can they do to overcome these interrelated challenges, while meeting their production targets?

Where are we now?

Mining and processing depend on vast amounts of water, and for South American miners this leads to complications. The copper mines of the Americas are frequently located in arid and mountainous regions where water is scarce. Indeed Chile, a leading copper mining nation, is currently enduring a ‘mega-drought’ of 13 years and counting. Here, water is a national security issue, leaving some rural communities reliant on tankers to supply fresh drinking water.

This importance is recognised by miners as well, with local community impact and water management being the industry’s top ESG risks, concerning 78% and 76% of respondents, respectively, according to research by EY.

Indeed, by 2040, all Chilean copper mines are expected to be in areas suffering from water stress. Likewise, water efficiency is increasingly becoming a serious problem, with the water-energy nexus shifting and water becoming more expensive. For water-intensive mining processes, lack of access and an increasing price per litre can be potentially difficult hurdles to overcome.

For modern copper miners, there is a historic separation between mining and water operations which must be reengineered to improve water access and use. As mines see their speed to market and output slowed due to water stress, there are three key challenges which, if solved, will help the industry as it extracts the materials to electrify the world. Only by managing water and mining operations together and bringing in collaborative expertise, can miners tackle the challenges before them and deliver at pace.

Understanding the three critical factors for mining success

Water management is the key ESG factor copper miners face today, and this manifests in three key issues: one historic, one present and one which poses a challenge now and will only get worse.

The first challenge is securing a reliable water supply.

The second challenge is reducing water consumption and increasing water efficiency, to ease pressure on water supply.

And the third challenge is minimising environmental risks.

Overall, water issues could affect the viability of mining projects in many regions around the world. Mining operations require significant amounts of water for processes including mineral extraction, ore processing, dust suppression and more. However, in many areas such as in Latin America water is becoming scarce due to drought, climate change and overuse.

Supplying modern mines

To supply mines and refining plants, mines have recently moved away from shared groundwater supplies to desalinated water. Desalination is more expensive but offers less impact on local communities and environment. Given that mines in the Americas are usually distant from the coast and at higher altitudes, desalination represents a difficult challenge for engineers to make feasible. Alternatively, to secure groundwater lifting licences, consumption needs to be effectively managed, and any water put back into the environment must be treated effectively.

Solving the supply challenge by altering water consumption

In effect, the first problem, supply, can be eased by tackling the second issue: water consumption. If supply is the historical issue, using water more efficiently to alter consumption is the issue of today. Whether it’s water use in particle flotation or lost in tailings slurries (for transportation and storage), making sure these processes are done as economically, efficiently and sustainably as possible is key. This is where new technologies and solutions come in.

An example of this is seen in the storage of tailings. Where water cost and procurement are not an issue in different locales and climates, the storage of tailings in a slurry form is common. In arid conditions where water resources are strained, the economic sense behind storage slurries evaporates. Slurries not only take water out of the operational system and into a closed storage system (which will need to be replaced), but it also allows the potential for water loss through evaporation and seepage.

Dry storage techniques – which have increased in scale in recent years – are the obvious solution with greater water reclamation from tailings and increased safety in storage. Moreover, high-altitude mines and liquid-based storage pose a potential risk to those downstream, making dry storage safer and more effective.

Copper tailings from an old mine that are deposited between rock berms that help contain the sediment

Another example of reducing consumption can be through greater efficiency when appraising the ores to be processed. This can be done with advanced ore sorting technologies such as those offered by NextOre, a cutting-edge technology able to provide real-time analysis of newly extracted ores. Rather than typical analysis methods which can detect mineral particles at or near the surface of ore, NextOre’s magnetic resonance technology can evaluate and sort much coarser ore with accuracy and speed. This allows miners to selectively remove the waste or lower grade material before it enters the processing plant – ultimately saving water, with only the best ore to be utilised.

A common misconception about water projects is that they are expensive and require significant resources to implement. While water projects can be costly, it is important to consider the long-term benefits that they bring, such as increased water availability, environmental impact mitigation, improved access to clean water for communities, and further growth for industry.

Saving water, and protecting the local environment

The third issue, which is increasing in importance by the day, is managing the risk of localised environmental issues, especially acid mine drainage that can contaminate the natural environment.

This is an issue that is only going to become harder to tackle as the ores we are required to mine become lower grade and the ability to avoid sulphur-forming ores is lost. In this respect, new technologies can help as more challenging ores are treated.

Overall, the challenges faced by the industry cannot be addressed by a single solution, or by siloed teams attacking from all angles. A unified, collaborative approach will be needed for the best results.

The design and implementation of a water management approach should be tailored to the specific mine site needs and context of the community and stakeholders involved. For projects to succeed in the future, they must integrate mining, water and environmental capability under one roof – from front-end studies to delivery, and operations through end-of-life. Miners will benefit from working with a collaborative partner to consider mining operations and water issues holistically, and how new mining technologies can operate synergistically to help tackle these water challenges.

Why internal and external collaboration is key for businesses

The mining industry will struggle to solve its water challenges alone. And it doesn’t need to. The complexity of modern mine operations – and need for diversified expertise – simply reflects the scale of the energy transition, and the need to continuously improve environmental outcomes to maintain the social licence to operate.

The answer is not straightforward and requires a deep understanding of operations, mining, water management and the surrounding community. Collaboration needs to be coordinated to develop and implement real solutions for the enduring issues facing miners.

If done right, copper mining will bring lasting value to communities through low-impact operations that share the benefits of water infrastructure and provide meaningful local economic contributions. This is the responsible way to ensure we deliver the copper our world desperately needs.

*Saleem Varghese is Copper Growth Lead at Worley, while Carola Sepulveda is Water for Mining Lead, Peru, at Worley

Babylon adds to water management offering with RHB Engineering buy

Babylon Pump and Power’s water management activities are set to expand with the planned acquisition of RHB Engineering Pty Ltd (RHB) for A$3 million ($2.04 million).

The transaction, which is expected to complete on January 31, will see Boddington, Western Australia-based RHB become a part of Babylon’s expanding groundwater and water ingress teams in Australia. The company provides rental pumps and specialist mechanical services in the water management field, with these pumps and services critical to mining operations in the southwest and other areas of Western Australia, Babylon said.

The RHB assets have been independently valued at over A$2.6 million, according to Babylon, having high utilisation rates and providing immediate earnings contribution to the company through existing rental contracts with clients.

Babylon Managing Director, Michael Shelby, said: “Management of groundwater and water ingress issues remain a ‘mission critical’ requirement for the mining and resource sector and the acquisition of RHB is a further strategic step into this attractive sector. This is an exciting and well-priced acquisition for Babylon which will expand our rental fleet, client base and water management activities. The acquisition complements our current operations with minimal increase in overheads while continuing to advance our rental and water management strategy.”

In August, Babylon executed a business asset acquisition agreement to acquire the operational assets of Resource Water Group, which provides bore field test pumping equipment and related data collection services as well as a range of water management disciplines to the mining industry.

This followed a June announcement from Babylon saying that it planned on expanding its mine water management activities.

METS Ignited and the Queensland Government launch enviroMETS

Queensland mining companies can now tap into the collaborative innovation of experienced organisations to deliver maximum value and enhanced future uses of post-mining land with the launch of industry-led, not-for-profit enviroMETS.

Aimed at devising innovative and sustainable repurposing, recommercialising and remediation solutions to create the greatest value for future custodians, enviroMETS is a joint METS Ignited and Queensland Government partnership that, the partners say, will provide a conduit of innovative industry-led solutions for government and mining companies.

This cluster initiative will deploy skills, research and experience in:

  • Mine lifecycle planning;
  • Geochemical and mine affected water management;
  • Mine waste reprocessing;
  • Geotechnical and tailings storage facilities;
  • Mine closure management; and
  • Governance/policy/regulatory framework.

enviroMETS will enable commercial collaborations to research and deploy new technologies such as reprocessing mine waste for essential mineral extraction or repurposing the landform for another commercial use, the partners say.

METS Ignited CEO, Adrian Beer, said enviroMETS builds upon the early clustering work of METS Ignited, in partnership with the Queensland Government.

“In reviewing our progress, it was clear multiple groups would benefit from the support of a dedicated organisation engaged in project coordination and lead collaboration management,” Beer said.

“SME vendors, research and academia, government and state-owned entities, as well as mining, METS organisations and investors, could all leverage a trusted independent broker representing enviroMETS groups.”

enviroMETS Executive Director, Allan Morton, explained that it was important to understand enviroMETS is a completely independent, industry-led, not-for-profit company, forming innovative collaborations to solve industry wide challenges.

“We are initiating several ‘lighthouse’ projects within our innovation ecosystem participants to accelerate this process,” Morton said. “This authenticates the objective and collaborative nature we offer, which I believe will deliver a unique set of unparalleled benefits to our participant groups, the environment and future custodians of these parcels of land.”

Gradiant concentrating its mining proposition

There are plenty of mining applications one can see Boston, Massachusetts-based Gradiant’s end-to-end water technology solutions serving.

A spinout of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the company calls itself the “experts” of industrial water, water reuse, minimum liquid discharge (MLD) and zero liquid discharge (ZLD), and resource recovery of metals and minerals.

That is a big remit, hence the reason why it caters to at least nine industries on a global basis in mission-critical water operations, with over 70% of its clients being Fortune 100 companies in the world’s essential industries.

Mining companies have historically been wary of suppliers that serve a variety of industries, believing their needs rarely cross over with the requirements of other industries. Gradiant believes it is different in that its solutions incorporate not only the hardware and software to fine-tune water technologies, but also the artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure the tools being used are effective regardless of the inputs.

This includes the RO Infinity™ (ROI™) platform of membrane-based solutions for complex water and wastewater challenges, which combine Gradiant’s patented counterflow reverse osmosis (CFRO) technology with reverse osmosis and low-pressure membrane processes. ROI solutions enable customers around the world to achieve sustainability goals to reduce their water and carbon footprint, the company says.

This platform is complemented with AI-backed SmartOps™, an integrated digital platform for asset performance management to optimise and predict plant operations using historical and real-time process data, resulting in performance and cost efficiencies.

Prakash Govindan, Co-Founder and COO of the company, says most water solutions on the market are built for consistent liquid/solid feeds and work effectively when the input is in accordance with these specifications. When the feed changes, they often become ineffective, needing to be updated or changed out, which costs money and impacts the various processes on either side of the water treatment section.

“The machine-learning algorithms we use – neural networks and time-series algorithms – ensure we consistently optimise the operation of our solutions,” Govindan told IM. “These tools make sure we always use the right performance metrics and don’t lose efficiency in the face of variability.”

The algorithms cannot change the hardware built into the water treatment plant, but it can, for instance, change the speed of the pumps or blowers. “We call it balancing, which is all part of our IP portfolio,” Govindan said.

SmartOps is an integrated digital platform for asset performance management to optimise and predict plant operations using historical and real-time process data

For mining companies looking to employ water treatment tools at their operations, this results in Gradiant’s technology being able to concentrate metals to a higher degree than any other solution on the market, according to Govindan.

“We can concentrate an aqueous solution to the point where you can produce a solid material that miners can then process,” he said.

Considering desalination applications represent a significant portion of the company’s work to this point – through its CFRO process – the mining sector has already provided some wins.

The CFRO process enables remote inland desalination and water reuse that was not previously possible due to a lack of viable brine management solutions, according to Gradiant, concentrating brines to saturation for disposal or crystallisation while producing a purified product water stream for beneficial reuse.

One significant nickel miner in Australia with a brine stream is using this solution to recover large amounts of concentrate it can feed through to its captive processing plant to produce an end-use product.

“Gradiant’s technologies enable clients to recover more than 50% of the nickel and cobalt from leached brine – this stream would have otherwise been wasted without our solutions,” Gradiant said. “Overall, this was a client benefit of about 20% increase in nickel and cobalt production across the entire operation.”

When considered together with the energy savings (75%), freshwater savings (25%) and environmental benefits, Gradiant continues to see high interest from miners around the world to adopt its solutions, it says.

That is before even factoring in the other complementary benefits that come with using SmartOps.

“All our products benefit from in-built sensors that not only allow us to update the operating parameters based on the detected materials, but also carry out scheduled maintenance on the hardware using these algorithms,” Govindan said. “This allows us to carry out 30-40% less service intervals than many conventional suppliers as we only take the solution out of operation based on what the data is telling us.

“Not only this, but we also have complete oversight of these parameters from remote locations, meaning you can monitor the systems from remote operating centres and not remain on site after installation.”

With mines getting more remote and hiring local employees getting even harder with the well-documented skills shortages, Gradiant feels its solutions will continue to win miners over.

Babylon expands mine water management activities with RWG acquisition

Babylon Pump and Power says it has executed a business asset acquisition agreement to acquire the operational assets of Resource Water Group (RWG) for A$3 million ($2.1 million) in a transaction that it hopes will result in more early-stage project engagement with mining companies.

Established in 2011 and based in Canning Vale, Western Australia, RWG provides bore field test pumping equipment and related data collection services as well as a range of water management disciplines to the mining industry. These services are critical to water users across the resources sector as they develop water management strategies in line with their environmental obligations and operational requirements, it says.

Back in June prior to the announced acquisition, Babylon said it was planning on expanding its mine water management activities.

Under the business acquisition agreement, Babylon will acquire the operational assets (independently valued at over A$2 million), goodwill, contracts and intellectual property of RWG. RWG’s founder, Frank Ashe, has entered a services contract and will become a member of the group’s senior executive. Three other RWG employees will also commence employment with Babylon.

Babylon Managing Director, Michael Shelby, said: “This is an exciting and well-priced acquisition for Babylon which will significantly expand our water management activities. The acquisition broadens our offering to new and existing clients, brings in additional technology and business development capability whilst complementing our existing business.

“RWG’s test pumping services are considered an early-stage project engagement service and have consequently led to relationships with a range of well recognised global and Australian mining companies including BHP, Rio Tinto, FMG, Roy Hill and Newcrest Mining. We expect that these relationships will also facilitate rental opportunities for our specialist pump rental assets, supporting the Company’s renewed strategic focus on multi-disciplined water management equipment and services.”

Babylon will move into new, purpose-built premises around November of this year and RWG will co-locate its assets and operations into the new facility.

RWG’s Ashe said: “This is an exciting time to be joining forces with Babylon as it builds into a diversified water services business. I am looking forward to joining the team and contributing to strategic growth initiatives and capitalising on RWG’s network of relationships.”