Xylem and its brands have been conquering global water problems for more than 100 years, pioneering a new frontier in sustainability and water security.
With water scarcity an increasing global concern, the world needs to be smarter and more sustainable in how it uses this valuable resource.
According to UNICEF, half of the world’s population could be living in areas facing water scarcity by as early as 2025. As a water-dependent sector, mining has a critical role to play in water conservation moving forward.
Sustainable water management underlines environmental, social and governance (ESG) obligations, and as more investors side with the green transition, stagnant mining companies risk being left out in the cold.
As one of the world’s leading water technology companies, Xylem is committed to “solving water” and has cracked the most difficult codes to ensure the resource is safely, sustainably and efficiently managed across industries.
As part of its 2025 sustainability goals, Xylem aims to enable the reuse of 4.3 billion cubic metres (or more than one trillion gallons) of water. Improving water reuse in the mining industry will play a key role.
According to Xylem Australia and New Zealand managing director Brian Krishna, sustaining water quality is crucial to achieving this objective.
“Most mining in this country has a large water impact, whether it be underground mining or open pit,” Krishna said. “Therefore, our view is how can we take that water and get it out of the mine site.
“Then, how can we return that water back to the environment and return it in better condition than what we’re doing with it at the source.”
Water goes through several steps before it can be successfully removed from a mine site, and the resource can easily be contaminated on the way out. Mineral sulphides can leach from excavated rock or water can mix with other chemicals used on a mine site.
To solve water on mine sites, Xylem considers an operation’s entire wastewater process. The company then recommends a holistic, modular treatment solution to ensure water can be returned to its original quality.
Xylem’s efficient water pumps can condition, filter and disinfect water, while reducing mining companies’ energy costs at the same time. Reclaimed water can then be used for irrigation or agriculture off-site.
Krishna said treated water can be fed back into mining operations as well.
“It’s important to consider how we reuse water back through the mine site or through other parts of the operation to ensure we’re not taking water from other sources that may put a strain on the natural environment,” Krishna said.
“Water scarcity is quite common across the Australian landscape because of the geographical country we live in.”
Many Australian mining operations are situated in some of the world’s driest, most remote locations, meaning water is often at a premium. Amid global climate change concerns, water scarcity could continue to worsen into the future.
And with global warming comes more severe weather events. Krishna said sustainability was not only about water reuse but also building capabilities to better anticipate impending emergency.
“We need to build more resilience in our sustainability across mine sites when it comes to natural disasters,” Krishna said. “With some of these situations you can only plan for so much, and all of the best predictions around our climate outlook still suggest we’re going to reach a crisis point.
“How do you get ready for that? Being sustainable means we can put in digital technology now that can give us analytics linked to weather stations connected to a mine site that can help faster predict what is coming and what we need to do to prepare and mitigate those severe weather events.”
Xylem has responded to natural disasters for more than 35 years, working with countries and cities to create contingency plans to map out emergency response strategies. The company has also provided pumping equipment and turnkey installations so people can bounce back from extreme weather events.
In flood situations, Xylem can connect its water monitoring analytics with pump infrastructure to unlock water storage on mine sites.
“With flooding, you might have pumps to pump the water but you’ve got nowhere to send the water and nowhere to store it,” Krishna said.
“We’re able to use analytics to measure the pipe storage on a mine site and know where the empty pipes are to determine where the water can be stored, because you might have to retain or store that water for five or six hours until the flood water has receded.”
Xylem continues to push the envelope of innovation in water management and the mining industry connected to that.
The company has constantly evolved to stay ahead in an ever-advancing world and become a market leader in research and development (R&D).
“Xylem has been connected to the mining industry for more than 100 years, so we’ve got a long history there,” Krishna said.
“What I’m seeing with all of our equipment and what the company is doing in the last 10 years is that we’re making everything smart, and you’ve got this term called ‘smart water’.
“So it’s using smart water monitoring methods on mine sites to measure on-site and off-site discharge limits, for example. It’s looking at infrastructure that’s been there for a long time – it’s ageing, it’s breaking, often it’s highly maintenance-intensive.
“It’s not just about replacing it because replacements often come with downtime, but also high capital costs. This is where we take our mechanical equipment and link it with something digital.
“Then we can provide analytics and talk about how we can better use or maintain that equipment. Because if we can do that, we can reduce energy consumption, our carbon footprint and, ultimately, preserve water and use it a lot better.”
Through its sustainability goals, Xylem is not only supporting customers and industries, but also combatting global poverty, providing clean water and sanitation for those who need it most.
Because for Xylem, sustainability is about creating a more water-secure world for future generations.
This feature appeared in the February issue of Australian Resources & Investment.