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Carbon Neutral Copper Mines Start with Water

A new global Water Report outlining how copper mines can embrace sustainable water use to help meet a carbon free future will be launched at South Australia’s “Copper To The World” Conference tomorrow.

Sponsored by copper miners Sandfire Resources and Anglo American, the International Copper Association Australia and the Global Copper Alliance, the report is part of the Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future initiative to pursue carbon neutral innovation across the copper industry.

Copper mines are big users of water, but in a world facing increasing climate stress, reducing water use, maximising mine site recycling, and minimising waste water disposal are key challenges to achieving low emission mines.

The Water Report identifies 6 major areas for mines to tackle in both the short and long term— Base line measurement, Dewatering, Desalination, Operational water use, Tailings and End use and Re-use. It further outlines a comprehensive list of solutions, including “off the shelf”, emerging and “next generation” innovations to make it happen.

While the copper industry is embracing change, the Water Report makes clear that many industrial processes have remained unchanged for decades, with innovation adoption posing a complex challenge. It provides 9 Pathways to achieve change, from company-centric to industry wide options like Thematic Collaboration, Business Models and Innovation Partnerships.

“Zero Emission Copper Mines will require fundamental changes in how energy and water are sourced and used,” John Fennell, ICAA CEO, said.

“Every copper producer now needs to create a long term water and decarbonisation strategy, but companies also need to see innovation as part of an industry wide approach….they can’t do it alone.”

The Water Report has already found support. Two water related demonstration projects—one by OZ Minerals in South Australia and the other led by the University of Adelaide—are currently underway, while the International Copper Alliance is also promoting the study to its members.

The Water Report is the first of five Roadmaps by the Zero Emission Copper Mine of the Future Project, with others on discovery, materials movement, mineral processing, and ventilation planned.


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