Water is critical for mining operations however, there are many competing demands placed upon water supplies including agriculture, industry, towns and the environment. Over the past decade or so the mining sector has been the centre of increased attention surrounding water use and management.
With the population of NSW expected to increase from 6.9 million to 11.8 million over the next 40 years there will be increased demands on a finite water supply. This demand is exacerbated during drought conditions, adding enormous pressure to already stressed water resources, potentially requiring difficult decisions by the water regulators regarding water allocations.
With the current and increasing pressure on NSW water resources, it is important to: (1) understand the likely water requirements for potential new mines prior to a mine development application being lodged, (2) assess the potential impacts of existing and proposed mines on the water resources, (3) develop a standardised water reporting framework, and (4) use policy and regulation to maximise water efficiency and reduce drought-related risks to supply. This will ultimately lead to improved regional water management that considers the requirements of all competing water users in a region.
The Geological Survey of NSW (GSNSW) is in a unique position, as the custodians of the State’s geoscientific data, to help characterise the groundwater systems and the potential impact mining may have in those areas. In this capacity GSNSW is providing 3D geological models and geological data to the NSW Office of Water for their Water Monitoring Strategy – to better understand groundwater behaviour. The GSNSW is also assessing mine water balances to understand the water requirements and usage in coal and metalliferous mines.