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A framework for assessing and communicating water risks in prospective mining regions of Colombia

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Author N McIntyre, M Angarita, N Acosta, L Camacho, J Pearse, C Huguet, O Restrepo, J Ossa-Moreno and D Arbelaez-Ruiz

Description

Colombia is an example of a nation where mining makes a significant contribution to local and national economies. Due to the abundant resources present in the ground, there are good prospects for further development. However, the impacts of mining projects can include reduced access to good quality freshwater for other economic activities and/or biodiversity preservation (Ossa et al., 2018). As well as the water management challenges common to all mining regions globally, Colombia has particular challenges associated with its biophysical and socio-political traits. Land use change in many regions is dynamic including rapid development of agriculture and the development and abandonment of small scale mines. The value of ecosystem services provided by prospective mining regions also creates challenges in particular with regard to the páramos, the headwater wetlands from which about 70% of Colombia’s water supply has originated (Cleef 1981). Colombia also has particular challenges related to strong preconceptions about mining and its impacts on water. On the one hand, there is recognition that new large-scale mines are important for Colombia’s economy; on the other, there is deep distrust of the sector’s ability to operate with minimal adverse impacts (Gutiérrez-Gómez, 2017). Hence, any impact assessment is likely to face high levels of scepticism and scrutiny. Summarising the work of McIntyre et al. (2018), this abstract proposes a framework for assessing and communicating risks to regional water resources arising from the impacts of mines. The framework outputs aim to provide government and other stakeholder groups the scientific evidence needed to inform their viewpoints about mining development in the selected region, and a baseline from which to design a program of priority scientific research.

CITATION:

McIntyre, N, Angarita, M, Acosta, N, Camacho, L, Pearse, J, Huguet, C, Restrepo, O, Ossa-Moreno, J and Arbelaez-Ruiz, D, 2018. A framework for assessing and communicating water risks in prospective mining regions of Colombia, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2018, pp 49–51 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).