Xylem turns wastewater into part of the mining cycle

Image: Xylem.

Xylem’s vision as a company is to help create a world where water issues are no longer a barrier to human health, prosperity and sustainable development. In the mining industry, this means creating solutions for the benefit of the mine, its village and the wider community it serves.

As one of the world’s most water intensive industries, mining operations around the world are contending with not only risks around water scarcity, but also risks associated with excess rainfall, which can result in flooding.

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Tracking the Trends report, part of the challenge is that many mining companies do not have a business case around reducing water intensity equivalent to business models for reducing energy intensity.

As a result, many companies do not have effective water management strategies that integrate with health, safety and environmental departments, preventing opportunities to manage water and energy simultaneously.

Companies like Xylem are there to bridge this gap, helping its mining clients to lower water usage, implement effective water strategies and to use and recycle waste water sustainably.

Xylem services its mining clients with the view of them forming their own villages, requiring water for both their work and home environment for drinking, bathing and sewage, then the water used for the mining operation itself for raw water, process, utility, tailings dams and dewatering applications.

The company also helps mining operations to use their water more sustainably, by taking the flood water from open pits that would normally be a waste product to treat it and use it within their community as part of their water cycle.

Alternatively, this water can then be sold on and provided to farmers for further use, to return the water to the local environment and community.

Xylem Oceania managing director Jim Athanas says the company helps the industry to achieve sustainable water usage for both financial and environmental benefits.

“The water that comes from mining operations is often quite high in salt and has the safety issue of flooding as well,” Athanas tells Australian Mining.

“To stop this from impacting operations, we give mining companies the ability to remove this water safely and deal with it in a sustainable way and return it back to the environment.”

Depending on where the water is sourced from and the minerals it contains, Xylem is able to condition, pump, filter and disinfect the water using ultra-violet or ozone to make the water safe for everyday use.

Athanas says every process Xylem undertakes is with sustainability in mind, being conscious of the footprint the company is leaving behind.

“We as a company are very conscious of our environmental footprint and we have technologies that minimise our environmental footprint, while being very efficient,” he says.

“Some areas in Western Australia, for example, have hyper saline water and once we move and treat that water, it can be processed and reused.

“Xylem supports mining operations throughout the whole water cycle and because we are water domain experts, we have the talent, people, resources and infrastructure to deliver a full service for both the operations and mine camp side.”

With mining communities often being in arid, country locations, water sustainability is regularly a core priority for these regions, so mines often operate under strict environmental criteria.

As well as being able to sell or donate this water to farmers or others within the community mines operate, they can actually use it for the processing plant of the mine site, allowing the water to have a full life cycle at the mine.

“The water we remove and treat can be recycled to be used within that mine’s water circuits in its processing plant or smelter, as part of their processing operations,” Athanas explains.

This helps mining operations to reduce their water usage by up to a third if it is implemented with water recycling initiatives.

Xylem pumps are also made from extremely durable materials that can be placed underground for long periods of time, which lowers maintenance costs and downtime, and extends the life of equipment on the mine site.

In addition to saving water costs and usage, Athanas says Xylem helps mining companies to slash their energy costs by 10 to 20 per cent with the company’s efficient pumping solutions.

“Xylem pumps have very efficient motors and combined with our technology, which ensures our pumping has minimal electricity, fuel usage and pollution,” he says.

Xylem’s water sustainability philosophy isn’t just present in its services to mining and other industries though.

Through its social responsibility program, called Watermark, Xylem works with its customers and suppliers to complete community projects related to providing and saving water, as well as providing education and access to water around the world.

“Under Watermark, Xylem was able to work with an Aboriginal community near Uluru to provide a water tank and a herb garden to the community,” Athanas says.

“We also work with organisations such as aged care homes, hospitals and schools to provide water recycling facilities and donate them to those in need under the Watermark banner.

“Xylem encourages its people to work alongside customers, suppliers and within their branch network to do positive things in the communities they serve.”

With 13 branches across the Oceania region, in locations strategic to mining communities such as Kalgoorlie (Western Australia), Mt Isa (Queensland) and Orange (New South Wales), the benefits of Watermark can reach regions in need all over Australia, as well as internationally.

These branches bring Xylem’s full workshop as close as possible to the mining operations and also offer turnkey capital product sales and rental services incorporating pumping, filtering, disinfection and analytical monitoring solutions to customers.

Xylem’s aim is to create a world where water is accessible for all and businesses are able to create a more sustainable model for their own water usage to help achieve this goal.

“Xylem’s vision is to help create a world where water issues are no longer a barrier for anyone. With Xylem monitoring the water in mining camps and operations, this leaves the mining companies free to focus on the core product while we find the best water solution for them,” Athanas concludes.

This feature also appears in the September edition of Australian Mining.

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