Mine waste and water management strategies must balance the ever-important lowest capital and operational costs with acceptable impacts to the environment. The term acceptable may be viewed as legally permittable and socially satisfactory impacts tailored to the needs of each project and its stakeholders. To develop a successful strategy, a flexible and transparent approach is required. A case must be built to stakeholders around sensitive social and environmental matters such as groundwater and surface water quality, air quality, noise and vibrations, impacts on wildlife, loss of fish habitats, Indigenous land rights, economic activities, as well as safety considerations (such as potential risks of dam failure), to obtain the required permits and authorizations.
The challenge for mining companies and consultants is to define a flexible mine waste and water management strategy early in the project, when inputs are far from final (such as the mining plan, process tailings parameters, waste rock quantities, baseline land conditions, etc.). The ideal strategy will accept variations in inputs as they are further defined, while avoiding unacceptable CAPEX and OPEX cost and schedule delays. Risk planning, stakeholder identification and engagement must be accomplished in the project initiation and planning phases. Leaders must challenge pre-set ideas and use expert judgment to propose creative and innovative solutions in problem solving. A good understanding of potential impacts of input variations on the global project economics, social acceptability and environmental parameters is required to be successful.
To facilitate financing for a promising mining project, tailoring the development and permitting strategy for mine waste and water storage areas early in the project is a key success factor. Innovative cost-reduction techniques, combined with socially acceptable and permittable waste management strategies, will lead to an economically viable project that can be delivered in record time.