Water Use and Sustainable Development in Coal Mining


Robin Evans (Senior Researcher, Sustainable Minerals Institute, UQ)
Peter Roe (Manager – Environment, BMA Coal)
Jim Joy (Director, Mineral Industry Safety and Health Centre, UQ)



The use of water to support mining operations in remote areas represents

water sustainability water colored by iron,articles site,

water sustainability - water colored by iron

a significant challenge to all mineral companies operating in Australia. When infrastructure and management systems provided by the company are also involved in supplying local communities and rural industries, the multiple stakeholders and different values involved introduce a complexity that reflects overlapping and sometimes conflicting priorities associated with the concept of sustainable development.


This paper describes a joint project between BMA Coal and the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute which used a modified risk management technique to evaluate a section of the BMA water infrastructure in Central Queensland. The Sustainability Opportunity and Threat Analysis (SOTA) technique has been designed to consider opportunities, as well as threats, that could affect the viability of an operation and its ability to contribute to sustainable development objectives. Once key threats and opportunities have been identified, the focus is then on selecting controls for managing priority risks/opportunities and developing indicators for gauging progress in these areas.


The technique was applied to the water life cycle for a portion of the BMA system including both operating mines and communities. In the process a number of broad issues suitable for inclusion in company strategic planning processes were identified. The risk management approach proved to be a useful tool for focusing attention on sustainability issues which might not otherwise be captured. The main challenges have been to ensure that opportunities as well as risks are properly identified, and that sufficient regard is paid to the interests and concerns of external stakeholders.

¹This is a modified version of a paper presented at the Minerals Council of Australia’s Sustainable Development 03 Conference, held in Brisbane in November 2003

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