Cloudbreak’s Managed Aquifer Recharge Winner

Just had an enlightening discussion with the Water Management team for Fortescue Metals Group who operate widely in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. FMG has a critical role with the Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR)  scheme they have put in place to carefully manage and maintain water quality, the quality of the ‘Papa Warringka’ the water in the ground. Aquifer injection has been adopted as a primary water management tool and to date has proven to be practical and effective.

cloudbreak mine pilbara, Fortescue’s Cloudbreak mine has implemented an innovative Managed Aquifer Recharge approach which mitigates environmental impacts related to surface discharge and dewatering drawdown and conserves brackish water resources for future mine water supply. The system is a first of its kind in a variable density groundwater setting and within a landscape with unique cultural and environmental values.


The infrastructure has developed since August 2008 to the current 25 gigalitres (GL) per year capacity making it one of the largest and most complex MAR schemes in Australia. This initial stage of the Chichester Papa Warringka Scheme has been operating as a sustainable ‘closed’ system with zero surface discharge since 2009.

Further developments are planned with an expansion of water management capacity to greater than 50GL per year through the expansion of the current successful approach of injection, storage, impact minimisation and multi-water quality stream management.

To give you an idea of the infrastructure set up to successfully operate the MAR at its current capacity, here is a bit of a breakdown:

The water abstraction, distribution and injection system at Cloudbreak is large and complex. The scheme currently includes over 200 abstraction bores (60 operational at any time), ten in-pit sumps, 200 kilometres of pipeline, six major transfer or settlement ponds, 100 brackish injection bores (50 operational, others for standby or future use) and 20 saline injection bores. The progressive nature of the mining operation drives continual expansion of the water management system for new mining areas, and redundant bores and sumps are regularly mined through.


With ultimately the Cloudbreak mining area extending over a strike length of 40 kilometres,  substantial dewatering and associated water management will be necessary. Cloudbreak’s MAR program will increase its capacity to accommodate  100-120GL/yr. That is just mind boggling.

Much of the information provided in this article has been taken from FMG’s publication showcasing the Cloudbreak Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Scheme








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