Water Resource Management
Since water is a strategic resource for the communities of the area and also for the mining activity, the company has developed a complete water resource management program. The program focuses on identifying, managing and maximizing the supply of water.
For more than one decade, MSC has carefully and systematically monitored its use of water as well as the levels of the basins and aquifers that are the source of the industrial and potable water.
In MSC’s concentration plant industrial-quality underground water that is not apt for human and animal consumption or irrigation is used. Given the importance of this resource and considering several aspects associated to its use, MSC has implemented actions in its operations to improve the efficiency and performance of water management in the well field.
From the beginning of its operations Minera San Cristóbal has significantly reduced the volume of underground industrial water used for its productive process that comes from the well field. It concerns saline waters, with a lower than D quality according to the classification of the Environmental Regulation regarding Water Contamination, Law 1333 of the Environment; therefore it is not suitable for human consumption or irrigation.
The volume of industrial water was reduced to date by 41.2% and 37.7% respectively relative to the maximum annual consumption reported in 2009. The historical average of pumping is 34,383 [m3/day].
In order to ensure greater volumes of recovery and recirculation of the tailings water to the concentration plant, a new system to recover water from the tailings deposit was installed. This system comprises a power transmission line of 15 km long, pumping stations and other facilities to transport tailings water to the concentration plant. A significant investment was made in this system. To date, the recirculation volume has increased significantly, reaching optimum levels.
In order to have updated information on behavior of the water sources in the impact area of the operations of MSC, for more than one decade the company has carefully and systematically monitored the environmental quality of the water, soil and biota, according to the standards and procedures set forth in the national laws and regulations in effect as well as in international standards.
The company therefore knows the quality characteristics of the sources of surface and underground water and its potential use for industrial activities and other uses in the communities.
Tailings management and disposal is one of the critical aspects from the environmental point of view, in view of the associated socioeconomic connotations. Hence, MSC pays more attention to its tailings storage facilities of the concentration plant, which is located in a closed (endorheic) basin, favoring risk prevention and control, both in normal operating conditions or in case of a contingency due to natural phenomena. There is no discharge of effluents outside the operational area thanks to the recirculation to the operating process.
The water for human consumption, i.e. the water for the company’s personnel and eventually for the communities, is obtained from a well located in the North Field. This well feeds the osmosis plant for a desalination treatment; this method of treatment has a much higher cost in comparison to other conventional processes that use physical-chemical procedures.