Assessing Sustainability of Mining Operations in Colombia with Respect to Water Management

This research aims to develop three methodological tools (energy, exergy and life-cycle assessment) to assess and compare the sustainability of current small and large scale mining systems in Colombia, including by-products generated in this process.

This research emphasises the use of water resources and existing gaps which at the moment compromise the sustainability of the industry; globally, water demand is driven primarily by the population and economic growth, and it is anticipated that in the coming decades, it will increase considerably, while supplies will remain almost constant or decreasing by factors such as climate change, over pumping and pollution of aquifers. It is not unknown that the primary input in gold extraction is water; which comes from a variety of sources, and sources and quality are the main areas of controversy and debate in this productive sector.

The main problem of the mining industry is to generate confidence in the development of a responsible, sustainable and transparent strategy in the use of water. A uniform methodology, as part of a regulatory framework, can be used as a road map to regulate the mining sector in a sustainable manner. The absence of a regulatory framework is to some extent the cause of limiting factors in mining development.

Based on the concept of sustainability as "the compatibility between energy, economics (maximum performance) and environmental aspects", extractive industries such as mining should contribute to an alternative energy source yield with acceptable environmental burden. The activity itself should be aligned with methodological tools to balance economics, energy and the environment. The study proposes a practical methodology to assist the industry in addressing existing pressing issues in this regard


Professor Neil McIntyre