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Water Management in the Coal Industry: Scoping Study

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Published: January 04Project Number: C12048

Get ReportAuthor: David Fuller, David Marston | URS Australia

The black coal industry in Australia uses and manages large quantities of water in all stages of the winning and processing of coal, and in the management and rehabilitation of mine sites. The industry commissioned this scoping study to define the water management issues facing the industry today and in the future. This study is designed to provide ACARP with information about future research investment needs and opportunities relating to water management.

Objective
The study was tasked to look at and beyond mine specific technical issues of water management and consider the broader mine related issues of water in the environment (interaction with policy, supply and pollution) as well as the interaction between mines and other water users and managers. Water management is now a major focus for community attitudes and has major socio-economic implications. Coal mines are significant 'players' in this situation and require a greater knowledge of both the total 'water environment' and the specific components that they can influence.

An understanding of this interactive 'picture' will enable ACARP to develop the most relevant water research investment strategy for the next 5-10 years. The actual strategy will be developed and operated by the industry through ACARP; guided by the framework (topics and priorities) resulting from this study.

Process
URS Australia consulted with mine managers and environmental officers as well other industry and water stakeholders in order to develop the complete framework of 'water issues' required by the coal industry.

Initially a review of the existing situation was undertaken by examining the current and recent research being undertaken together with other information on water policy and management. The Industry Steering Committee assisted by arranging for documents and other information from within the industry to be collected. URS collected information on the other aspects of water as it affects mining and ACARP participants were encouraged to submit additional information. A program was developed to visit nine key mine sites in order to provide a greater understanding of the water issues. The mine visits involved mine technical and management personnel discussing key water issues with technical staff from URS in a focus group meeting. Key topics for discussion were targeted to collect specific local information and also to explore common issues that could benefit from generic solutions. URS visited sites in the Bowen (Qld), Hunter (NSW), Illawarra (NSW) and Collie (WA) regions and also talked with other water stakeholders. Following the visits, the consultants analysed the issues identified to develop themes and then to prioritise these based on importance to the ongoing industry.

The project commenced in July 2003 and was completed in December 2003. Presentations to the ACARP Technical Committees in October 2003, explained the project, indicated draft water management needs and opportunities, assessed the validity of these, and sought additional ideas.

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