Australasian Mining Review

Australasian Mining Review Summer 2011

Australasian Mining Review

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53 [Climate change] Keeping your head above water Mining in a future climate M ost of Australia’s mining areas can expect hotter, drier conditions and more extreme weather events, such as flooding rains, as our climate changes not just in the distant future but during the operating life of an individual mine. As Australia’s climate changes, mines will need to adapt their operations, with the production stage being most at risk. CSIRO is working with mines, mining stakeholders and communities across the mining value chain to figure out the likely impacts of climate change, explore the risks and start developing climate adaptation strategies. “The mining industry is of huge economic importance in Australia and is quite vulnerable to climate change,” said Dr Kieren Moffat, who leads CSIROs research into mining and climate change through the Climate Adaptation Flagship and the Minerals Down Under Flagship. Climate change will lead to knock-on effects beyond the obvious impacts of extreme events like floods. For example, a greater number of hotter days could lead to tarmac damage and interrupt access for mine workers and for transport, meaning mines and mineral processing plants will require more on-site storage for materials and processed ore. And as droughts become more frequent with hotter, drier and more variable climate conditions, there may be conflict between mines and other water users like local communities, farmers and other industries. “We expect the mining industry will be impacted by climate change in diverse ways,” Dr Moffat said. “We want to understand how mining companies and communities are thinking about and planning for climate change. Our goal is to help them get on the right track and make climate adaptation part of their normal risk management planning and thinking.” The importance of early planning for climate change shouldn’t be underestimated. The knock-on effects of climate change mean that climate adaptation is a whole of industry issue. Climate adaptation will need to involve all parts of the value chain and bring together mining companies, water and power providers, state and local governments, education providers and local communities, just to name a few. “Put simply, it is just critical that mining companies, mining communities and other stakeholders in the mining value chain start planning early for climate change,” said Ray Ciantar, Manager Infrastructure and Planning at Goldfields Esperance Development Commission. “Research has shown retrofitting to be very expensive and time consuming. The reality is that all players in the resources sector need to do their bit. For example, it is of little value if a mining operation plans and implements a strategy for dealing with climate change if its suppliers do not do likewise. Climate change planning needs to be viewed as a total risk management strategy and embedded in all the company’s thinking and processes,” Ciantar said. “In addition, companies that do not take on climate change planning and adaption seriously and early enough, might find themselves at a distinct competitive disadvantage compared to those companies that do.” Exploring the expected impacts of climate change in Western Australia’s Goldfields CSIRO held a workshop in Kalgoorlie-Boulder last August to explore the mining industry’s perceptions of climate change and the industry’s climate adaptation requirements in Western Australia’s Goldfields-Esperance mining region. The region supports both mines and an extensive network of mineral processing, utilities and transport infrastructure. Climate change in this region will be felt by many interdependent stakeholders, from mining companies, to infrastructure providers, local government agencies and local communities. The impacts of climate change are likely to have shared implications among all stakeholders. CSIRO’s climate projections for 2030 and 2070 in Australia’s key mineral provinces point towards a hotter and drier climate for the WA Goldfields region. This will put additional stress on water resources in an area that is already described as hot and dry for most of the year. The region will also experience more extreme weather events, including high winds (10 to 15 per cent increase by 2030) and intense rainfall (20 to 30 per cent increase by 2030). The workshop provided the industry with climate projections and concepts of climate adaptation and gave different stakeholders the opportunity to reveal what the potential impacts of climate change mean for each of them. A range of issues arose from the discussions, such as access to water Australasian Mining Review 2011: issue 2.1 Dry bed of a tailings dam, South Australia. Hotter, drier conditions and more extreme weather events will have an impact on working conditions and safety for mine workers, writes Andrea Wild.

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