Image credits: Andrey Kukharenko
News Article

The Mining Sector, Toward Better Water Usage

By Fernando Mares | Mon, 08/01/2022 - 15:59

The water scarcity occurring in northern Mexico has severely affected the way of life of inhabitants, as well as the way companies operate. The problem the north now must confront could become a possibility for the rest of the country, so its companies, governments and citizens must be prepared to avoid it. Although the mining sector is not a major water consumer, companies are worried about their water management and began to develop systems toward better usage of the liquid. 

The main system implemented to this end is the closed water loop. According to the Sustainability Report of the Mexican Chamber of Mining (CAMIMEX), most of its members have shown progress in incorporating such a system. The loop aims to reduce consumption by reusing water and avoiding discharges. “There are some occasions when companies discharge water, but its quality is within the limits of the environmental legislation,” said the report. 

In 2020, CAMIMEX-affiliated companies used over 2 million m³ of wastewater in their daily operations. Similarly, through the operation of 70 municipal water treatment plants, companies reuse 8.5 million m³ of water, which was used for watering green areas, mineral processing and equipment cooling. The treatment plants have helped the sector to reach a recycled water usage of 58 percent. 

Examining the industry’s water use, Sonora for example holds 4,000 existing mining concessions, representing 30 percent of the state’s land. Nevertheless, current developing projects use just 0.1 percent of this land. According to Luis Medina, Vice President, Agnico Eagle, contrary to what the “no-mining” narrative argues, the sector uses just two percent of the state’s water resources. This is much less than what other industries like agriculture and livestock use, which consume over 38 and 22 percent respectively. 

In May 2022, Governor of Sonora Alfonso Durazo announced a joint investment with Grupo México to handle water infrastructure at the Cananea and Nazcozari mines to assure drinking water supply for nearby communities. The project will require US$35 million in investment. 

In Chihuahua, mining deposits have helped in sourcing significant amounts of water. Local authorities of El Quijote invested over US$487,000 in a water treatment plant to treat water coming from the Veta Colorada, el Arbolito and El Caiman Mines. The plant capacity  of 50L/s also benefits over 10,000 homes. 

According to Tom Melbye, Board of Directors Member, Normet, the mining industry is taking sustainability more seriously, as companies realized that if they do not act on the issue, they will not survive the paradigm shift. 

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Photo by:   Andrey Kukharenko
Fernando Mares Fernando Mares Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst