Chapter 11 -- National Handbook of Recommended Methods for Water Data Acquisition

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11.G.1. Description

Mining water use includes water used for the extraction and on-site processing of naturally occurring minerals including coal, ores, petroleum, and natural gas. Basically, minerals are broken up in the earth and transported to the surface where it is crushed, ground, and separated from the host rock material (fig. 7). The minerals are then sent on for smelting and refining, which are considered industrial use. Most of the water used at the mine site is used in grinding and separating, but significant variations can occur depending on whether the mine: (1) is hard rock, sulfur, coal, sand and gravel, petroleum, or natural gas; (2) is underground extraction, solution, open pit, or dredging; (3) is in a dry or humid climate with a corresponding low or high water table; and (4) whether the mine site must generate its own power, particularly steam. Water may be recycled many times within the mine site or excess water may be constantly discharged from the mine site. The SIC code for this category ranges from 1010 to 1499.

The mining category includes: withdrawals from ground and surface water; deliveries from water suppliers; consumptive use as evaporation and product incorporation during dust control, tailings disposal, slurry conveyance, and drying; wastewater treatment; deliveries of reclaimed wastewater; return flow; and dewatering.

11.G.2. Sources of mining water-use information

Sources of mining water-use data are: (1) State Geological Survey; (2) the State agency responsible for regulating mining activities; (3) the State agency responsible for compliance to the USEPA's Clean Water Act Program; (4) the State agency responsible for regulating withdrawals; (5) U.S. Bureau of Mines; (6) the U.S. Bureau of the Census; and (7) U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Individual mines also are an important source of information.

Most State Geological Surveys, or agency responsible for regulating mining activities, track mining operations and may be a good source of information on types of ongoing operations and production volumes. If there is a State agency regulating withdrawals, they probably require data from the mining operations on withdrawals and dewatering. Similarly, the agency responsible for compliance to the Clean Water Act permits discharges from the mine site and probably has complete description of the mining operations on the NPDES permit application.


Figure 7. Diagram of mining water use.

The U.S. Bureau of Mines (BOM) also compiles information on mining operations in each State. They publish a Mineral Yearbook, State Minerals summaries, Annual Commodity Reports, and Mineral Industry Surveys. In addition, they maintain an automated fax response system, called "MINES FaxBack", a document-on-demand system. Using MINES FaxBack, you can request a catalog of available publications as well as the publications themselves. BOM also maintains a Mine Inspection Data Analysis System, where data are stored from their inspection program; however, only processing plants are inspected--if a mining operation is not accompanied by a processing plant, it will not be listed.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census is required by law (Title 13 of the United States Code--section 131, 191, and 224) to take the economic census every 5 years, covering years ending in 2 and 7. These economic census consist of the: Census of Retail Trade; Wholesale Trade; Service Industries; Transportation; Manufactures, Mineral Industries; and Construction Industries. The results of each of the economic census are available in printed reports, for sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office, and on microfiche, computer tape, compact discs with read-only memory, and flexible diskettes, for sale by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The Census of Mineral Industries contains such statistics as number of establishments, employment, payroll, value of shipments, cost of materials consumed, and capital expenditures for each State and its important metropolitan areas, counties, and places, by mineral industry groups. U.S. Bureau of the Census, also produces Water Use in Mineral Industries, the latest issue covering intake, recirculation, and discharge of water during 1989, for establishments using at least 20 Mgal/yr.

11.G.3. Measurement, estimation, and data-collection methods for mining water use

Water use by mining facilities will vary depending on the size and type of mining operation. Significant variations in water use can occur depending on the commodity mined (hard rock, sulfur, coal, sand and gravel, petroleum, or natural gas); type of mining operation (underground extraction, solution, open pit, or dredging; and the climatological and hydrologic environment (dry or humid climate with a corresponding low or high water table). The first step is to identify mining operations in the area of interest, collect available reported data from all the State agencies mentioned above, supplement missing data with contact with the individual facilities, including possible measurement of certain activities, and evaluate the data for consistency and accuracy.

11.G.4. Mining selected references

These references are supplemental to the ones in the General reference Section.

Gilkey, W.M., and Stotelmeyer, R.B., 1965, Water requirements and uses in New Mexico mineral industries: U.S. Bureau of Mines Information Circular 8276.

Joseph, E.S., 1982, Municipal and industrial water demands of western United States: American Society of Civil Engineers, Journal of the Water Resources Planning and Management Division, v. 108, no. WR2, p. 204-216.

Kaufman, A., and Nadles, M., 1966, Water use in the mineral industry: U.S. Bureau of Mines Information Circular 8285, 46 p.

Palmer, R.N., 1977, Comparative assessment of water use and environmental implications of coal slurry pipelines: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 77-698, 29 p.

Quan, Choon K., 1988, Water use in the domestic nonfuel minerals industry: U.S. Bureau of Mines Information Circular 9196, 62 p.

Stroup, R.L., and Townsend, S.B., 1974, Water use and coal development in Eastern Montana--water availability and demands: Bozeman, Montana State University Water Resources Research Center Report 59, 89 p.

U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1985, Water use in mineral industries, 1982 census of mineral industries: Subject Series MIC 82-S-4, p. 32.

Wright, A., Rogers, J.A., and Buxbaum, D., 1978, Water requirements for coal development in Energy Technology Conference, 5th, 1978, Washington, D.C., Proceedings: Washington, D.C. p. 431-437.

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