Fortescue’s Chichester Hub is an iron ore operation located within the Pilbara region of Western Australia adjacent to the Fortescue Marsh. The Marsh is a 1000km2 evaporation basin comprised of a complex array of alluvial aquifers and is a wetland of national significance. Given this significance, its proximity to the mine, the complex hydrogeology, and the hypersaline quality of groundwater; stringent water management conditions were applied by both State and Federal regulators.
The Papa Waringka (Nyipali language for water in the ground) dewatering and MAR schemes employs a complex, integrated, multiple water quality solution to enable below watertable mining whilst mitigating environmental impacts on the Marsh and ensuring regulatory compliance. All surplus water is returned to the appropriate aquifer systems via groundwater injection for either future operational supply if brackish, or if saline to maintain pre-mining water levels in the vicinity of the Fortescue Marsh.
As far as the authors can ascertain, the Papa Waringka scheme represents one of the world’s largest dewatering and MAR schemes and by all accounts, Australia’s largest. Since operations commenced in 2008 the Papa Waringka scheme has:
The Papa Waringka scheme has been awarded numerous awards the most recent being the International Water Association (IAW) award for innovation (2012). Since winning this award, the scheme has grown fivefold and has been used multiple times as a leading practice case study example in water management, most recently in the “Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the Mining Industry” and the Department of Water, “Water for Growth – Mining document”. The authors believe the Papa Waringka Scheme is an excellent case study on how to balance the requirement for continued economic development whilst avoiding environmental impacts.