Minera Cuzcatlan Pushes Sustainably-Sourced Water UsageBy Fernando Mares | Tue, 06/14/2022 - 20:22
The mining sector is often subjected to a negative public perception, mostly because of its heavy water consumption, even though it consumes less water than the agriculture and livestock industries. Compañía Minera Cuzcatlan, the Mexican Subsidiary of Fortuna Silver Mines, reported that it has never used underground water for its operations at its San Jose Mine located in Oaxaca. Instead, the company recycles and reutilizes waste water.
In 2010, the company signed an agreement with Ocotlan de Morelos’ authorities to acquire the wastewater treatment plant (PTAR) for 15 years to meet the company’s water demand. Under the agreement, the company committed to revamping the PTAR and absorb its operational costs. The company restored water tanks, connected pipelines and installed the required equipment, which required an investment of US$300,000. In addition, operational costs and maintenance required over US$25,000 monthly.
According to the company, thanks to this investment 80 percent of the water used in its processes comes from the PTAR, whereas the remainder comes from rainwater collection systems, transported via canals. The remaining 20 percent of the treated water is used to water the community’s green areas and supply government offices.
Luis Camargo, Country Head, Minera Cuzcatlan, said that since the company uses a floatation process, water is essential. That is why the company has a water closed circuit, which retains most of the water. According to Camargo, just 6 percent of the water needs to be restored, because some of it is lost due to evaporation and the concentrate’s absorption.
Thanks to the PTAR’s restoration, polluted water is no longer poured into the Atoyac River like it was before the company’s intervention. This improved the quality of life of the community’s inhabitants by mitigating health risks and floods. “The San Jose unit does not use river water, nor emptied wastewater because we implemented a closed-circuit system. Nevertheless, we carry out constant water checks to measure the its quality in nearby areas, as established by the environmental law,” the company stated.
According to Irma Benítez, Coordinator, PTAR, the main challenges the plant faces are population growth and the lack of connection of communities to the drainage system. Currently, the plant treats the water of over 20,000 inhabitants. “Previously, 100 percent of the inhabitants were connected to the system, now we estimate just 80 percent of them are connected because new localities have been created without connecting them to the public drainage system,” Benítez added.