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Water balance management 101


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Author M Rafty and C Lane


Managing water is a key aspect of mining, whether a site is in water surplus or water deficit. Water in tailings storage facilities (TSFs) needs to be managed carefully to maximise the density of the solids, maximise the re-use of available water and to minimise the risk of water overtopping the spillway in the event of heavy rainfall. Developing a water balance models is a standard method for monitoring the major flows of water around a site.

However, models created by specialist consultants are often overly complex and are not suited to being used by process plant personnel after they have been handed over to the mine operator. Models typically offer information on water management at the time that they are created, but then ‘sit on the shelf’ and offer no further insight or value for operating mines.

Advisian has developed a customised water balance model for a mine in Sub-Saharan Africa, which can be adapted to other locations, to assist in managing water at the site and in particular to predict the current and future water level and volume in the TSF under various rainfall scenarios. The model was developed using Microsoft Excel and requires no specialist skills to operate. Site personnel enter in daily production, water transfer and rainfall data and then view the output dashboards to observe the current water level and volume, decant rates, licensed water abstraction and water supply versus demand. The output dashboards were developed in close consultation with the client to ensure that all of the relevant key performance indicators were included, from the perspectives of all the key stakeholders.

This modelling approach focusses on the needs of the people who will actually use the model to actively manage TSFs with the need to involve the model developer as part of ongoing operations eliminated. The simplicity of this approach is now being embraced by other mine sites in Africa and Australia.


Rafty, M and Lane, C, 2018. Water balance management 101, in Proceedings Mine Waste and Tailings Stewardship Conference 2018, pp 485–490 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).