THE Upper Hunter mining industry is a relatively low user of water flowing through the Hunter River system, according to new figures released by the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue.
In 2016, the mining industry only used just two per cent of the water in the system according to figures collated by the dialogue’s water accounting project.
This compares to 36 per cent extracted from the river and used by non-mining businesses and residents.
The water accounting project’s results also show most of the water used by the mining industry comes from sources other than the river.
The mines sourced 55 per cent of all the water they used from onsite rainfall and runoff and a further 28 per cent was sourced from deep aquifers that are of limited used to other water users due to their high salinity.
Almost half of the water – 47 per cent - used in the mining sector was recycled and re-used.
The water accounting project was initiated through the dialogue to gain a better understanding of mining’s interaction with water resources in the region and identify opportunities for water management opportunities.
Dialogue chairman Dave O’Brien said the water accounting project’s annual findings were valuable tools to use in the dialogue’s work bringing together the mining industry with local residents, businesses, environmental groups and regulators to work together to minimise the cumulative impacts of mining.
“The water accounting project provides the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue members and the community with information about mining’s interaction with water resources in the region, allowing for a more informed discussion,” he said.
“The project allows the mining industry to be a leader in the area of water management and provides the facts on water usage to the community.
“We understand water usage is something in which the community has a strong interest.
“The unique makeup of the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue, which includes all active mining companies in the Upper Hunter, allows us to collect this water usage data which is very valuable, particularly in times such as the current drought.”
The water accounting project focuses on the Hunter River and its tributaries from Glenbawn Dam downstream to Singleton – where Upper Hunter mines and the major water supply dams are located – and collects the water usage data annually.
Upper Hunter mines get their water from a variety of sources and must be licenced for any water they take from rivers and groundwater.
According to the data released by the dialogue, only 10 per cent of the water used by mines came from rivers and alluvial aquifers.
As part of the Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme, Upper Hunter mines are only allowed to discharge into the Hunter River at times when river flows are high.
Despite a wetter than average year in 2016 generating higher than average river flows, only four per cent of mine water was discharged into the river.