Infrastructure SA calls for holistic water management to grow mining sector

OZ Minerals' Carrapateena project. Image: OZ Minerals

Infrastructure SA has released a 20-year infrastructure strategy for South Australia that includes short- and long-term strategies to grow the state’s resources sector.

The strategy proposes further investment in the state’s water infrastructure; deeming the investment necessary not only from human consumption point of view, but also for further economic growth in areas such as the mining industry.

According to Infrastructure SA, agricultural and industrial users are the largest consumers of water in the state, which necessitates support of projects such as the Federal Government’s National Water Grid Authority that was established last year.

The plan outlines the need for South Australia to “champion development of a national water plan” for the state’s vital water resources in the River Murray.

Water infrastructure allows for better storage, treatment and transportation of water, with all three being vital to mining operations, Infrastructure SA said.

“Any significant new development or expansion is likely to either need to identify new water sources or transport water to site, sometimes over great distances,” Infrastructure SA stated in the strategy.

“A new magnetite iron ore mine, for example, requires approximately 2–2.5 gigalitres of water per million tones of product.

“Any additional infrastructure required to supply suitable water will ultimately be reflected in the cost of water, and efforts should be made to aggregate demand where possible to ensure investment is efficient.”

With water being South Australia’s most valuable resource — and also a limited one — holistic management at a national level could push growth in the mining industry by providing a more fair and cost-effective water supply.

The strategy also mentions the importance of low volume, high value resources projects for the state’s economy, along with focussing on improvements required to South Australia’s regional road network to boost supply chains.

Infrastructure SA also highlighted the importance of 5G technology for autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles through lower latency that results in faster control.

OzMinerals, who featured in the Infrastructure SA strategy, agreed that 5G technology would improve remote operations.

“The development of high speed, high bandwidth connections between remote, regional and urban areas will serve to break down the large distances throughout our state and enable new ways of working such as remote operating centres as well as the potential for regional innovation precincts,” an OzMinerals spokesperson said.

South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME) also pledged their support for the 20-year strategy, stating that the infrastructure will help boost the state’s resources sector further.

“The strategy highlights the importance of identifying opportunities that have sufficient scale and global demand to achieve a step change in growth, and recognises the importance of the resources sector in unlocking economic value for the state,” SACOME chief executive officer Rebecca Knol said.

“SACOME is committed to working with Infrastructure SA to identify and progress strategic infrastructure solutions that encourage the growth of our sector and of the state.”

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