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Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

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Water and energy synergy and trade-off potentials in mine water

M.T. Nguyen a, *, S. Vink a, M. Ziemski b, D.J. Barrett c

Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
Tech Mahindra, Perth, Western Australia 6000, Australia
Commonwealth Scientic and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Canberra, Australia

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 21 October 2013
Received in revised form
17 January 2014
Accepted 20 January 2014
Available online 29 January 2014

Reducing water consumption and increasing energy efciency are emerging as two key requirements to
move towards a more sustainable mining industry. However, the two targets can be in conict as water
management initiatives often lead to an increase in energy consumption. On the other hand, some water
initiatives may lead to reduction in energy consumption, leading to synergy between energy and water
efciency initiatives. To maximise energy and water sustainability in mine water management, it is
essential that synergy and trade-off potentials between the water and energy targets related to water
initiatives are recognised.
Limited research has been conducted to develop a tool or approach to consider water and energy
impacts of water initiatives in a coupled manner. This paper presents a protocol to recognise waterenergy synergy and trade-off potentials. The protocol is demonstrated for three case study mine sites.
The results of this paper show that a particular water management option can hold a synergy potential
for one mine but a trade-off potential for another mine. The rigour of the approach captures cases where
water management options are predicted to be synergistic, but are in fact shown to be a trade-off according to the results. It is concluded that the use of this protocol can provide insights about synergy and
trade-off potentials between water and energy targets of mine sites subject to water management options. This is an innovative approach to more holistically assess water management option impacts.
2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Water management
Energy management

1. Introduction
Water use and energy consumption in mining have been identied as two key business risks (WBCSD, 2009). Further, it is expected that the water risks for this sector are likely to grow as
competition for access to water increases among all water users
(Zabey and Bof, 2009). The risks are due to predicted increasing
water shortages, increased regulatory limitations on water use, as
well as reputational and nancial aspects. On the other hand, energy business risk relates to security and cost uncertainty which
directly inuence operational costs when assessing capital investment (Ghosal and Loungani, 2000; Koetse et al., 2006). The business risks associated with water and energy can cause production

* Corresponding author. Tel.: 61 431 751 182.

E-mail addresses:,
T. Nguyen).
0959-6526/$ e see front matter 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


chain interruption, closing down of operations and increased

remediation costs such as those related to water discharge and
green house gas (GHG) emissions. Consequently, the risks can
lower productivity and decrease economic activity of a region.
Water use and energy consumptions in the mining industry are
large and increasing. Most mines use 0.4e1.6 kL of water per ton of
ore feed (Brown, 2003). In Chile, the copper mining industry
consumed 0.79 m3 and 0.13 m3 of fresh water to produce one ton of
ore in concentration process and hydrometallurgical process
respectively (Cochilco, 2008). Due to mining operation capacity
expansions and uses of mass-mining techniques, especially with
the increasing trend of super-cave mining, water demand for
mining operations and mineral processing is increasing (Chitombo,
2010). In addition, the continuous decrease in grade of new ore
deposits also leads to an unavoidable higher energy and water use,
as more raw materials need to be processed to produce the same
amount of nal product (Mudd, 2009, 2010). Hunt (2009) suggested a range of factors including lower grade, greater haulage
distance, shifting commercial product portfolio and technological
change have made copper mining signicantly more energy


M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

Key terms used in this paper

Raw water
Task losses
Underground inows
management option
Worked water

Reservoirs of underground water

Pumping water out of open pit and/or underground
mining operations
Water that is contained in materials that are
extracted and will be processed
Water that is supplied or captured and has not been
previously used for mine operations
Worked water is treated before it is used in a task
Worked water is passed to a task without
transformation e.g. treatment
Rainfall that falls on the site and/or outside the site
that is collected and transferred to storages
Water removed from the operational facility beneath
storage or handling facilities
Facilities on site that hold or capture water
Unit operations of basic steps in the mineral
processing sequence
Water disappears and/or is unavailable for other
application after it is used at a task
Groundwater that seeps into underground mining
operation area
Water solution that changes water system
Water that has been used for mine operations and is
returned to a store for future use

intensive in the second half of this decade. The same circumstances

apply to other commodities as well.
Because water and energy are emerging as two key business
risks for the mining sector, the two have become major considerations in the assessment of the sustainability. The increasing demands of water and energy use strongly affect mining companies
sustainability performance and production cost. Mining operations
cannot exist without sufcient and secure supplies of both water
and energy. For many mine expansion projects, access to water and
energy has become a critical factor in assessing the feasibility of
such projects. A good water and energy management strategy is
essential for the success of a mining project throughout the life of a
Due to the importance of water and energy, many initiatives
have been conducted by mining companies to reduce water consumption and energy utilisation at mine sites. In general, management targets at mine sites are aimed at minimising energy
consumption while maintaining sufcient water for mine operations. However, these two management targets are usually in
conict as water management initiatives often lead to an increase
in energy consumption. An obvious example is the energy intensive
reverse osmosis desalination process. Therefore, the assessment of
water management options should consider water and energy
impacts in a coupled manner to assist in the selection of alternative
approaches for achieving a mine water management strategy.
Extensive research has been conducted to address the use and
potential mitigation strategies for mine water and energy as isolated components of the mine water system. However, little is
available on coupling water and energy management.
Most of water management research is about the topics of
reducing mine water use and improving management. This
research focuses on understanding independent aspects of mine
water interactions, water and wastewater treatment, as well as
water use efciency. Among those, the predominantly studied aspects are impacts of mining voids on water resources and surrounding water bodies, e.g. groundwater table drawdown (Cidu
et al., 2008; Kaergaard, 1978; Panilas et al., 2008) and groundwater contamination due to mining activities (Gandy and Younger,
2007; Razowska, 2001; Tonder et al., 2007; Younger, 2000). The
effect of acid mine drainage (AMD) on the environment (Dinelli
et al., 2001; Monterroso and Macas, 1998; Ritchie, 1994;

Williams and Smith, 2000) is also extensively evaluated along

with the required water and wastewater treatment to meet production and regulatory requirements (Levy et al., 2006; Madin,
2006; Pamukcu and Simsir, 2008). Recently, more research and
projects have aimed at improving water use performance including
increasing water reuse and recycling rates (Mathewson et al., 2006;
Stegink et al., 2003), minimising water use (Bru et al., 2008; Consoli
and Sills, 2000; Cote et al., 2010; Miller, 2003; Nappier-Munn and
Morrison, 2003) and diversifying water supply options (Cochilco,
2008; Philippe et al., 2010; Stegink et al., 2003). A comprehensive
conceptual model was also developed for mine water accounting
and management (Cote et al., 2012).
Most research about mine energy use attempts to optimise
energy efciency at individual processing tasks so that less energy
is consumed per ton of product. Even though some work has been
expanded for energy efciency in the mining sector, it is usually
targeted at only task level that represents unit operations including
basic steps in the mineral processing sequence such as grinding,
leaching, otation and dewatering. The main areas targeted for
energy use improvement are comminution circuits (Napier-Munn
et al., 1996; Pokraicic, 2009; Shi and Kojovic, 2007; Vogel and
Peukert, 2004) and pumping systems (Munson, 2009; Rea and
Monaghan, 2009). Some initiatives have been explored to identify
the potential of improving energy use efciency at site system level
and regional level, such as by excess heat capture and recovery
(Ziemski, 2007) and energy sharing between a mine site and its
local community (Aguado et al., 2006). The use of renewable energy
sources has also been considered (Driussi and Jansz, 2006; EPCM,
The interactions between water and energy in mining had
limited attention until it was highlighted in the 5th World Water
Forum 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey, and later in the Water in Mining
Conference 2009 in Perth, Australia. Recently, the topic was
specially addressed at the Gecamin Water in Mining Conference
2012 in Santiago, Chile (Barrett, 2012). Two approaches developed
to determine the energy requirements for different water strategies
are: Optimal Mine Water Network Design using Water Pinch
Analysis, and the Hierarchical Systems Modelling approach.
1.1. Optimal mine water network design using water pinch analysis
One of the rst research initiatives relating to water and energy
interactions in mining was the Mine Water Network Design
(MWND) approach introduced by Gunson et al. (2010). Gunson
et al. (2010) combined the MWND with the Water Pinch Analysis
(WPA) approach and applied it to the mining industry. The WPA
approach is a method used in other industries to identify a water
allocation scenario within a water network that maximises water
reuse and minimises wastewater discharge (CANMET Energy
Technology Centre-Warennes, 2003; Hallale, 2002; Yoo et al.,
2007). WPA has also been used in power plant applications to
determine minimum energy consumption, operation costs and
overall costs (Anantharaman et al., 2004; Assadi and Johansson,
1999; Manesh et al., 2008a, 2008b; Zhelev, 2005; Zhelev and
Ridol, 2006).
The MWND approach rstly species quantity and quality of
potential water providers (sources) and water receivers (users)
within a mine water system. Energy demand for each potential
water provider to be received by each potential water receiver is
then identied. The energy demand includes energy required for
water processes such as pumping, treatment, cooling and heating.
In this way, energy requirement matrices of the water system are
constructed. The MWND approach uses linear programming to
select the matrix that requires minimum energy. As a result, an
optimal water network which species which receiver is to obtain

M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

water from which provider at suitable quantity and quality while

energy requirement is at a minimum can be determined.
The MWND approach is a novel development in the eld of
water and energy interaction in mining, but its application to-date
has been limited. MWND can be applied during feasibility phase of
mine development to determine the optimal operating water system for a mine site. In other words, it is suitable for greeneld water
projects. However, site water management in most cases is to
optimise existing water systems where water providers and water
receivers as well as the links between them are already well
established. MWND cannot be used to improve an existing mine
water system because it would cause signicant changes to water
system networks which are generally static. Therefore, MWND is a
good design tool to set up a new water system, but not so good at
analysing water options that change a water system.
1.2. Hierarchical Systems Model
A foundation research that conceptualises hierarchical systems
representations in mining was conducted by Kunz et al. (2013).
Based on this foundation work, a comprehensive computer mode
called the Hierarchical Systems Model (HSM) has been developed
(Keir and Woodley, 2013; Woodley et al., 2013). The model represents water, energy and emissions interactions in mining at multiple scales: sub-site, site and regional level.
 At sub-site level, the system is a group of operational units that
form a processing chain, e.g. a processing plant or a tailings facility. Each component of a sub-site level system is a basic unit of
functional operations such as grinding, leaching, or otation.
HSM at sub-site level allows modelling, reporting and optimisation of each basic unit of operations.
 At site level, a whole site is a system of which a group of unit
operations is a component. Processing plant, dust suppression
and underground mining are example components of the
overall system at this level. The focus of HSM at site level is the
interaction between major site processes. Generally, a site level
system is comprised of all sub-site level systems combined.
 A regional level system is where each mine site is considered as
a component of a broader geographic area that expands beyond
the borders of a single mine. The approach at this level allows
the consideration of interactions of a site with surrounding
community and environment.
At each of the scales, the model presents information on water
and energy entering and leaving each system component: water
input, water output, energy input and energy output. Generally, the
model builds a network of several system components as building
blocks. Energy information of each system component (e.g. energy


demand and emission) is attributed to each system component

along with water quantity and water quality information. The HSM
approach allows information of water use to be captured in parallel
with energy use on the same system. The outcomes of analysis with
the HSM reports water use, energy consumption and emission
associated with operational units, mine site and regional scales.
While HSM is one of the rst attempts to represent water and
energy uses in mining in a coupled manner, more research is
required to understand the interactions between water and energy. In particular, the ability to evaluate the energy implications
of different water management options in a coupled manner
during the feasibility phase of mine water projects requires
While little work has been done in the area of coupling water
and energy management in the mining industry, this paper presents a protocol to recognise the potential for synergies and tradeoffs between water and energy targets at a mine site to assist in
mine water management decisions. The paper is presented in an
inductive way. Specic terminologies related to mine water and
energy synergy and trade-off potentials will be dened rstly to
frame a protocol. Then, identications of synergy and trade-off
potentials between water and energy targets in mine water management will be conducted for three case study mine sites by
applying the dened protocol. Results of applying the protocol to
the three case studies are the recognition of the potential subject to
these case studies operational and environmental contexts. Discussions are then drawn out by analysing the results. Finally,
important conclusions are stated.

2. Method
2.1. Denition of synergy and trade-off between water and energy
targets in mine water management
The research presented in this paper is about the overall impacts
of both water and energy aspects when a water management option is considered or introduced. Hence, the concepts of synergy
and trade-off are dened using two related terms: net water
availability DV (L/s) and net operational energy demand DEn (kJ/s).
 Net water availability DV is the net maximum volume of water
per second that a water management option can deliver, as
compared to an existing water system. It is the water availability
at a mine site after implementing a water option minus the
water availability before implementing the option.
 Net operational energy demand DEn is the net energy required
per second to operate a water option. It is calculated as the
energy demand of a water system after a water option is

Table 1
Synergy and trade-off scenario matrix.

DEn > 0

DEn [ 0

DEn < 0

DV > 0

DV 0

DV < 0

(More water volume
available but also more
energy intensive)
(Water volume availability is
increased without demanding
more operational energy)
(Water volume availability is
increased and operational
energy demand is reduced)

(This is the case where a practice does
not change mine water availability but
increases operational energy demand)
(A water option does not change water
volume availability nor energy demand of the mine)

Not applicable

(A practice to reduce operational
energy consumption without demanding more water)

(Energy demand is reduced but
less water is available)

Not applicable


M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

Table 2
Context different between three example mines.





Copper mine
Coal mine

Atacama Desert, Tarapaca, Chile

Bowen Basin, Central Queensland, Australia



Gold mine

Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, Australia

Open cut mining

Open cut mining
Underground mining (room and pillar)
Open cut mining
Underground mining (sub-level caving)



implemented minus the energy demand of the system before

the option is implemented.
Synergy: (where a benet is achieved for at least one of the
water and energy targets without a negative impact on the
A synergy between water and energy targets occurs when a
water management option results in benets for either or
both of the targets without any negative impact on either of
the targets.
Trade-off: (where a benet is achieved but with negative impacts to either water or energy target)
A trade-off between water and energy targets occurs when a
water management option results in a benet to the water or
energy target but has a negative impact on the other.
A summary of synergy and trade-off scenarios is presented in
Table 1.

2.2. Identication of synergy and trade-off potentials at three mine

The identication of synergy and trade-off potentials between
water and energy in water management of a mine site uses the
following steps:
1. Examination of sites operational and environmental context,
2. Suggestion of water management options subject to site contexts and water management committees opinions,
3. Identication of net water availability and net operational energy demand of each water management option, and
4. Recognition whether a water management option provides
synergy or trade-off potential between water and energy to a
site by observing results of net water availability and net operational energy demand.
The identication of net water availability and net operational
energy demand of each water management option is not presented
in detail in this paper as this is not the focus of the paper. In brief,
they are calculated using general knowledge of engineering

Fig. 1. Water outputs proportion at the copper mine.

equations and designs related to water pumping, desalination and

treatment processes.
The three mine sites selected are different to each other in
commodities, topography and climate conditions. These include a
copper mine in Tarapaca of Chile, a coal mine in Central Queensland
and a gold mine in Western Australia. The coal mine is located in a
semi-arid region. It has excess water from underground dewatering. The copper mine and the gold mine have limited access to
water as they are located in arid regions: the Atacama Desert and
the Great Sandy Desert, respectively. The copper mine is located at
high altitude in a mountainous area, hence it is expected to have
high energy demand to access water from nearby regions. The gold
mine is in a quite at area, hence it may require much lower energy
to pump ground water to the mine. A summary of the differences is
presented in Table 2.

2.2.1. The copper mine

The copper mine is located in a mountain area at over 4000 m in
altitude. The location is in a hostile environment which is typical for
a high altitude arid climate. Annual precipitation is less than
150 mm, temperatures drop below freezing at night year-round,
and the air is 40% thinner than at sea level. Operations at this
mine have relied on water sourced from local aquifers.
The withdrawal of water from local aquifers in the past several
years has caused lowering water tables, according to the monitoring results conducted by the mine. In addition, as the mine is
planning for site expansion and ore feed increase at the processing
plant, it is expected that mean water requirement of 1114 L/s
currently of the mine may increase up to 2872 L/s for the highest
water requirement scenario. To reduce adverse impacts of the mine
to the water table of the current exploited local aquifers as well as
to have a reliable water supply security, it is necessary to consider
new water supply sources and increase water use efciency of the
copper mine.
Water supply quality is generally not an issue to consider in
general mining operation tasks such as dust suppression or vehicle
washing. However, low water quality is avoided in the otation
circuit of the processing plant as it may affect ore recovery rate as
well as mineral separation efciency.
Most of the water brought into the site is used for the mines
concentrator plant and then partially recovered at mine thickeners.
The remainder is stored in water storage ponds or evaporated at the
mines tailings dam. At the mine site, high-rate thickeners (HRT) are
in use. They are placed next to the concentrator plant and water
from the concentrator is sent to the HRT. The operational data indicates this HRT does not achieve its design throughput target.
According to technical staff of the mine, the reason for its poor
performance is that the HRT has a large surface area (100 m in
diameter), and the strong wind experienced at such elevations
(4000 m asl.) causes hydraulic disturbances which hinder the
settling of solids in the HRT.
The distribution of water outputs at the copper mine is shown in
Fig. 1. Most water losses at this mine are due to water entrainment
in tailings at the tailings dam (39%) and ponded water that remains

M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638


Fig. 2. Water management options at the copper mine.

at the tailings dam (29%). The remaining water losses are less signicant, with 14% due to evaporation excluding irrigational evaporation, 12% for task losses, 4% for seepage at tailings dam, and 2%
for other losses.
According to site staff, the worked water that is stored at the
tailings dam is currently not available for recycle because its
components such as rheology and grinding circuit requirements are
beyond operational control. More intensive research and trials are
needed to recycle the ponded water at the tailings dam of this site
currently. On the other hand, preventing or reducing water going to
the tailings dam is a potential practice to enhance efcient water
use by the mine, as the water losses at the mine are mainly related
to tailings dam water. Covering open areas to reduce evaporation
can be impractical at this mine due to the very large water surface
areas. The fact that the mine is withdrawing groundwater from
surrounding local water sources can cause adverse impacts to the
environment such as lowering the areas groundwater table in the
long term. Moreover, the local groundwater capacity may not be
adequate for the mines operations, because mine operations, and
hence its water requirements, are expanding. Therefore, seeking
more water sources and increasing water reuse or recycling onsite
are critical issues for the mine. Based on information about the
performance of the mines water system and the investigation of
possible new water sources by the mines engineers, some water
management options as shown in the following are proposed for
further analysis. A summary of the options is presented in Fig. 2.

30 km south and south west of the mine. This water can be

exploited from four bores. The water volume of each bore is 100 L/s.
 Option 3 and option 4: Import seawater without and with desalination respectively
Seawater, either untreated or desalinated, can be taken from a
coastal area which is about 300 km from the mine and more than
4000 m lower than the mine elevation. Under this option the mine
would expect to withdraw 1000 L/s of water from this source. It is
assumed that a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system may be used for the
desalination of which the recovery rate is 45%.
 Option 5: Reuse mine worked water using paste thickeners (PT)
A plan of using PT to reuse water from the concentration plant
was considered by the mine. PT could be placed between the
concentration plant and the tailings dam. This position is lower
than the plant elevation but higher than the tailings dam elevation.
It is expected that the PT can avoid the poor performance problem
that the HRT is experiencing by employing deeper tanks and a
smaller surface area, and reduce energy for pumping tailing slurry
from the plant to the PT.

 Option 1: Import ground water from another region

The groundwater source is from another region located more
than 200 km south of the mine. This water source has a large
available water yield up to 800 L/s.
 Option 2: Import groundwater from another mines local aquifer
The ground water source from another local aquifer has an
available yield of 400 L/s, and can be extracted at a distance of about

Fig. 3. Water output proportion at the coal mine.


M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

operations, such as for dust suppression at the coal face. At the coal
mine, the power plant has a waste energy source with excess steam
emitted to the atmosphere. This wasted steam could be captured
and used as an energy source for desalination using distillation
Based on the understanding of the mines water system and the
proposed strategies discussed above, water management options
are as follows.

Fig. 4. Water output proportion at the gold mine.

2.2.2. The coal mine

The coal mine has both surface and underground operations,
comprising one open-cut dragline strip area, two underground
long-wall operations, and one room and pillar operation. The mine
is located in a semi-arid climate region with a wet season and a dry
season throughout the year. In this area, the average annual potential evaporation is around 3.4 times higher than the long-term
average annual rainfall. This mine lies in a at area among undulating open woodland in a highland area. It is currently receiving
fresh river water imported from a weir located 50 km east of the
mine via a 60 km pipeline at a rate of over 40 L/s. This water source
is also used by other water users such as for agricultural activities
and towns within the river basin. It is important to increase water
reuse and recycling performance of the mine to reduce its reliance
on the fresh water source and pressure in water access competition
with other water users. The mine also has a small thermal power
plant onsite with an operating energy capacity of 32 MW. The fuel
of this power plant is methane from mine degassing.
Water losses at the coal mine are due to task losses, entrainment
in coal products and rejects, storage seepage and evaporation over
open water surface areas. These water losses are shown in Fig. 3.
As shown in Fig. 3, more than two thirds of water output is lost
to evaporation. The evaporation at the worked water store alone is
42% of the total water loss of this coal mine. One solution to reduce
this loss is to reduce or prevent water coming to the worked water
store. The worked water store receives water via rain, disturbed
runoff, from the tailing storage facility (TSF) and underground
mining operation. Rainfall and disturbed runoff sources are unpredictable. Worked water received from the TSF is unavoidable.
Hence, the only opportunity to reduce water coming to the worked
water store is to manage the dewatering from the underground
mining. The dewatering consists of mainly groundwater inows
estimated at 62 ML/month, and underground mining worked water
(i.e. water that has been used for underground mining operations)
at around 28 ML/month. This represents a waste of potentially
usable water, as groundwater inows are currently not being used
but evaporated at the worked water store. In summary, the current
water system of the mine is inefcient because groundwater inows in the underground mining area are not captured for mine
operation needs, but evaporated at the worked water store causing
large water loss for the mine.
It is proposed that the groundwater inows should be used at
the mine in order to reduce mine water loss, increase water reuse
onsite and increase water volume available for mine operations at
the mine. The water that is a mix of groundwater inows and underground worked water from underground mining operations is
saline, with Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) of about 6000 ppm. In
order for this water to be used at the mine, it needs to be desalinated, because potable water is required for underground

 Option 1: Underground dewatering is desalinated using Reverse

Osmosis technique (RO)
 Option 2: Underground dewatering is desalinated by Multi Stage
Flash Distillation technique (MSF) with feed steam from the
onsite power plant
 Option 3: Underground dewatering is desalinated by Multi Effect
Distillation technique (MED) with feed steam from the onsite
power plant

2.2.3. The gold mine

The gold mine has both open pit and underground operations. It
is located in a plain dry area where the dominant ora is acacia
trees, shrubs and drought-resistant grasses. The climate is typically
arid with a very hot summer and a warm winter. The excess
evaporation over rainfall is at 4160 mm. The majority of the
360.6 mm annual rainfall is in the summer months, while there is
little to no rainfall otherwise. Cyclones also occur intermittently in
the area causing intermittent large volumes of precipitation that ll
up water stores at the mine.
Currently, the mine imports about 690 L/s of water from
nearby bore elds. Monitoring and research work of the mine
reveals that the water withdrawal activity in the long term will
lower water table of the area around the bore elds. Hence, the
mine needs to seek alternative water supply sources as well as
increase water reuse and recycling rates. Potable water is required
partially for the processing plant to mix with other water sources.
The purpose of this mixing is to provide water at an appropriate
quality required for several mineral separation steps within the
processing plant. Potable water is also required for the operation
of a power plant on site. Lower quality water can be used for other
purposes at the mine such as dust suppression and vehicle
The distribution of water output at this gold mine is presented in
Fig. 4. Most water losses of the mine occur at the TSF where
evaporation is 27.6% and entrainment is 40%. Reducing worked
water entering the TSF by increasing the water reuse rate within
the processing plant can reduce this signicant loss. A replacement
of high rate thickener (HRT) currently used at the mine by paste
thickener (PT) could increase water recycling rate for the processing plant.
The TSF has a large surface area (2.5 km in diameter). Hence,
covering the TSF surface is impractical. Evaporation reduction could
be achieved partially by covering the open water surface areas of
the worked water store, the process water store, the raw water
store and thickeners of the mine.
The bore eld water on which the mine relies gets recharged by
the unreliable rainfall of this region. Any change in climate tending
towards more droughts can seriously impact water availability at
these bore elds, and directly affect the mine operations. The
withdrawal of the bore eld water in the long term can also cause
lowering bore eld water tables, especially if the withdrawal rate is
higher than the recharge rate of this region. Seeking additional
water sources is therefore important for the mine operation.
In summary, options for better water management at the gold
mine are as follows.

M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

Fig. 5. Net operational energy demand and net water available volume of water
management options of the copper mine.

 Option 1: Seeking water from another region

A fresh water source 10 km south west of the mine has been
identied. This source is expected to supply 114 ML/d.
 Option 2: Using paste thickener
A paste thickener could be used to replace the current thickener
at this mine to increase the solid content percentage of the waste
stream sent to the TSF. Consequently, less evaporation and tailings
entrainment would occur at the TSF, and more water would be
returned from the thickeners to the processing plant after being
held at the process water store. It is expected that the solid content
can be increased from the current range of 50e55% currently to
65%. As the paste thickener underow is high in solids, the energy
requirement to pump the paste to the tailings dam can be signicant. Therefore, it is assumed that the paste thickener will be placed
relatively close to the tailings dam.
 Option 3: Covering open surface areas
The small open surface areas of the worked water store, the raw
water store, the process water store and the thickeners could be
covered to reduce water lost via evaporation. An amount of
0.23 ML/d of water could be saved by this option. The expected
water saving was calculated based on the surface areas of the facilities and the average evaporation rate at 5.46 mm/d of the mine
area recorded over the last 34 years provided by mine site staff.


copper mine. Net water volume availability DV and net operational

energy demand DEn associated with each water management option are shown in Fig. 5.
Options 1, 2, 3, and 4 do not change the water system components within the mine site but import water from water sources
outside the mine site area. Hence, the net water availability DV of
these options is the volumes of water that these options potentially
can deliver to the mine, and net operational energy demand DEn is
the energy required to import the water.
For option 5, PT is used to replace the HRT that is currently in use
at the mine for worked water reuse. The net water availability DV
and net operational energy demand DEn of this option are
respectively the difference between the PT circuit and the HRT
circuit in water recovery rates and the energy required for the water
facilities of the circuits to return water to the process water store.
Fig. 5 reveals that there would be a synergy between the water
and energy targets of the copper mine when replacing the high rate
thickener (HRT) with paste thickener (PT) (option 5). This
replacement has synergy potential as it can slightly reduce the
energy of the water reuse circuit and increase water volume
availability for the mine (DV > 0 and DEn < 0). All other water
options which import water to the mine result in more energy
intensity for the mine although they can increase the mines water
availability (DV > 0 and DEn > 0). Thus, options 1, 2, 3 and 4 have
trade-off potentials for the copper mine.
3.2. The coal mine
Fig. 6 presents the estimated net water availability DV and net
energy demand DEn of the three options. The results in Fig. 6 show
that all of the three options are trade-off potentials for the coal
mine because they demand more energy for the water system as
compared to the current water system, though they provide more
water available for mine operations (DV > 0 and DEn > 0). It was
originally expected that there would be a potential synergy between the water and energy systems at the coal mine since waste
heat from the onsite power plant can be used for reusing the underground brackish water by a distillation technology using either
MSF or MED. However, more energy is required for the reticulation
of MED and MSF related water ows. Consequently, the net energy
demands (DEn) of the MED and MSF options are positive. These
imply trade-off potentials for the coal mine as none of the options
represents a net benet in both energy and water targets.
3.3. The gold mine

3. Results
3.1. The copper mine
Energy estimation has been conducted to estimate the energy
requirement of the identied water management options of the

Fig. 7 presents net water availability and net energy demand of

the three water management options. Fig. 7 shows that trade-off
potentials exist for the options 1 and 2: importing raw water and
reusing water using PT, where the mine would have more water but
demand more energy (DV > 0 and DEn > 0). Option 3, covering
open surfaces, would provide a synergy to the mine as more water
is available for the mine at no extra energy expense (DV > 0 and
DEn 0).
4. Discussion

Fig. 6. Net energy demand and net water available of three water management option
of the coal mine.

Three mine sites have been used in this research to identify

synergy and trade-off potentials between water and energy targets
in mine water management at a mine site scale. The results show
that, out of the 11 water management options proposed across the
analysis of the three mine sites, only two have synergy potentials.
The majority of water management options are trade-off for mine
sites because water initiatives often require more energy.


M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

Fig. 7. Net energy demand and net water available subject to each water management
option of the gold mine.

The results obtained from the three case studies also reveal that
not all water reuse and recycling options have synergy potentials.
Water recycling and reuse are often considered to be a more energy
efcient method of obtaining water than traditional water sourcing. However, the analysis has shown that energy spent on a water
system to reuse or recycle water can be more energy intensive than
an existing water sourcing approach. It is also clear from the
analysis that the same water option can have a synergy potential for
one mine but a trade-off potential for another. For example, the use
of paste thickeners was shown to have a synergy potential for the
copper mine but a trade-off potential for the gold mine. The reason
is explained by pumping energy requirements within the circuit of
thickeners-tailings dam-process water store: In the case of the
copper mine, the replacement of PT for HRT took advantage of
topography e a mountainous area. As a result, the pumping energy
of the new system was less energy intensive than pumping energy
of the current system of the copper mine. The gold mine could not
get this advantage because it is located in a at region. In such
conditions, pumping energy becomes more intensive when
replacing HRT with PT because PT has higher solid slurry
In the case of the coal mine, the use of power plant heat for
desalination for water recycle was predicted to be synergistic but
resulted as a trade-off. The reason is that although the desalination
process could use free power plant heat for distillation, more energy would be required to circulate water around the mine. That is
the option introduces signicant new energy requirements to
transport brackish water from underground to the desalination
plant, distilled water from the desalination plant to mining operations, and brine from the desalination plant to brine stores.
The identication of synergy and trade-off potentials can be
useful in providing insights about water and energy impacts of

Table 3
Water-energy indices of the water management options of the three case studies.
Case study


Copper mine

Option 1: Import ground water

from another region
Option 2: Import groundwater
from another mines local aquifer
Option 3: Import
desalinated seawater
Option 4: Import seawater
without desalination
Option 1: Using RO
Option 2: Using MSF
Option 3: Using MED
Option 1: Seeking water from another region
Option 2: Using paste thickener

Coal mine



water management options to the operation of a mine site. The

insights would be useful in developing a strategic water management plan. Although the water and energy coupling approach
presented in this research has been demonstrated at three operated
water systems, the approach could also be applicable to greeneld
water projects. The application would benet in assisting the
establishment of a new water system where both water and energy
are used most efciently.
The recognition of synergy and trade-off potentials subject to a
set of water management options could provide a guideline to
assist in the decision making of a strategic mine water management
plan, from a water and energy utilisation impacts perspective. In
the case of the copper mine, the guideline outcome is that the mine
should rst apply the option of replacing HRT by PT (option 5)
because this option provide a synergy, i.e. benet for both water
and energy targets, and then seek more raw water supply sources
(option 1, 2, 3 and 4).
The selection of new water import options should be in the
order of increasing energy intensity of the water options, i.e. it
should start at the least energy intensive option until the mine got
sufcient water for its operations at each stage of its mining project.
Energy intensity of a water option could be represented by a waterenergy index as follows:

Water_Energy Index

Net water volume availability DV

Net energy demand DEn

The index implies an extra unit volume of water a mine could

access by expending one extra unit of energy.
Using the water-energy index values, the option having higher
index value should be preferred. For the copper mine case, according to Table 3, the order of water option preference following
the synergy option (using paste thickener) is option 2, then option
1, option 4, and nally option 3.
A similar approach could be applied to the coal mine and the
gold mine to identify the selection priority of the water management options. The index values of the three water options of the
coal mine in Table 3 reveal that option 2 (MED) should be selected.
In case of the gold mine, because the option of covering open water
surfaces has synergy potential between water and energy targets, it
should be selected rst for implementation. The remaining two
water options are evaluated using water-energy index values. According to Table 3, the gold mines option 2 (paste thickener) is
preferred to option 1 (new bore elds).
The identication of synergy and trade-off potentials can provide insights of better water management options to be selected at
these mine sites, considering water supply availability and energy
requirement impacts. However, in practice, the capital costs of
implementing these options may be the most important factor for
consideration for mines making decisions in water management
option selection.
5. Conclusion
The paper has discussed synergy and trade-off potentials between water and energy targets in mine water management. The
synergy and trade-off potentials are identied by using two
criteria: net water available volume and net operational energy
demand. A few important conclusions can be obtained by this
research. First of all, it can be concluded that most water management options at mine sites will have trade-off potentials, while
few options provide synergy potentials where net benets in both
water and energy targets are realised. Secondly, the same water
management option can potentially be synergistic for one mine, but
a trade-off for another mine. Water and energy benets are context

M.T. Nguyen et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 84 (2014) 629e638

specic and the same option can be either a synergy or trade-off

potential depending on context. The outcome of the identication
of these synergy and trade-off potentials is that it provides guidelines from water and energy perspectives to assist in the decision
making of developing water management strategies in the mining
industry. At the global level, trade-offs are not sufcient to reduce
the accelerating demand for water and energy supply. Synergies
leading to signicantly reduced energy and water demand are
required. This needs to be tackled in a strategic way over the next
decade to overcome industry level shortfalls in water and energy
for production.

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