Water availability and security of supply is a critical business risk for the minerals industry which generates a very high economic value-add from water use. Mining and minerals processing cannot occur without secure access to reliable water supplies.

While mining does not have a large presence within the Murray-Darling Basin (utilising around 0.55 per cent2 of available water), the industry can be a significant water user at the local or regional level. Accordingly, the MCA considers the reforms under the Water Act to be important in balancing the needs of the society, economic development and the environment.

The minerals industry utilises both surface water and groundwater resources within the Murray- Darling Basin (MDB) and the management of groundwater is of particular interest. The minerals industry operates in areas with little reliable surface water supplies. Many operations are dependent on access to groundwater in terms of supply, but also dewatering activities for safe operation. The minerals industry supports the principles within the 2004 Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative (NWI) and recognises the importance of the Water Act 2007, as the primary legislation for implementing these reforms within the MDB.

The minerals industry faces a range of sector specific challenges in the implementation of water reforms as recognised by Clause 34 of the NWI. Most of these challenges relate to a lack of recognition of industry circumstances in subordinate mechanisms/arrangements and the rigidity of existing entitlement regimes. The MCA does however consider the Water Act could be improved to provide additional flexibility to allow for the development of innovative approaches to managing industry water use which are not in conflict with the objectives of the Act.

In recent years, the MCA has worked closely with the National Water Commission to better understand the water reform challenges facing the minerals industry and to develop a range of policy solutions. A key outcome of this process is the publication of the Integrating the Mining Sector into Water Planning and Entitlements Regimes report, released in March 2012.3 Many of these matters have been further articulated in the MCA response to the triennial assessment of the NWI.4

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