Australia contains some of the most productive mining areas and is characterised by ancient landscapes and highly variable hydrology. Historical mining of iron ore, coal and other minerals has targeted ore deposits located above water tables, and elevated above creek lines where possible to reduce cost. The downturn in mining caused by falling ore prices over recent years has triggered a drive to reduce cost, maximise yield and delay capital expenditure associated with opening new mines. So as the ore deposits with more favorable mining conditions become depleted there is an increased focus on mining ore associated with valley floors and creek lines.
This is demonstrated by a regional assessment of the extent of Channel Iron Deposits (CID) and Iron Ore (Fe) Mines and Deposits in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia (Figure 1). A large proportion of these mines are, or plan to, target high grade CID ore associated with existing creek systems. Figure 2 shows outcropping and inferred sub-cropping CID extents, which suggests there are vast quantities of CID ore deposits throughout the Pilbara Region, intersected by major creeks which could be mined at some point in the future using creek diversions (Atkinson et al., 2017). A similar picture could also be produced for coal mining in Queensland, particularly in areas such as the Bowen Basin.
While creek diversions provide an opportunity to maximise the utilisation of these orebodies and extend the life of mine, creek diversions can involve substantial financial, social, environmental and regulatory risks that need to be carefully managed (Markham et al., 2017, Atkinson et al., 2017). This paper discusses the key issues and opportunities associated with diversion decision making. It highlights the importance of using a well-structured assessment methodology that allows key stakeholders to be part of the assessment process and is complementary to material presented in Atkinson et al., (2017). Design considerations for operational and closure designs are presented, as well as mine planning considerations, risks, cost saving opportunities and the benefits of an integrated approach to design. The role technology plays in diversion design and performance monitoring is discussed as are the potential opportunities for the future.
Atkinson, S, Markham, A and Rafty, M, 2018. Diversion decision making with an integrated approach to design for operations and mine closure, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2018, pp 74–79 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).