Submission on the Draft National Groundwater Strategic Framework 2015-25

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission on the Draft National Groundwater Strategic Framework.

The MCA is the peak industry organisation representing Australia’s exploration, mining and minerals processing industry, nationally and internationally, in its contribution to sustainable development and society. The MCA’s strategic objective is to advocate public policy and operational practice for a world-class industry that is safe, profitable, innovative, and environmentally and socially responsible and attuned to its communities’ needs and expectations.

MCA member companies are signatories to Enduring Value – the Australian Minerals Industry Framework for Sustainable Development and have a long standing commitment to the effective and responsible management of Australia’s water resources.

At the 2012-13 national account; the minerals sector was responsible less than 2.9 per cent of Australia’s net water consumption. Although the minerals industry is a comparatively small user of water nationally, the industry can be a significant water user at a local or regional level.

The minerals industry operates in regional and remote areas, often with little reliable surface water supplies. Accordingly, many operations are dependent on groundwater for water supply. Furthermore, operations may need to draw down on aquifer (dewatering) to enable safe operation. Water used by the minerals industry is of varying quality, much of which is not fit for purposes other than for industrial applications.

The minerals industry supports the principles within the 2004 Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative (NWI). The MCA also recognises the importance of Clause 34 of the NWI, which accounts for the sector specific challenges facing the minerals industry and remains relevant to the implementation of the strategic framework.

The MCA supports the development of the National Groundwater Strategic Framework. However, design of implementation measures (actions) will require careful consideration and further engagement with the range of stakeholders, including the minerals industry, to avoid unintended consequences. Of specific concern is how existing policy is adapted for the management of groundwater and its implications to the way mining interacts with groundwater.

Download complete article