Mine Water Use, Treatment, and Reuse in the United States: A Look at Current Industry Practices and Select Case Studies
Mining provides significant economic value while often impacting local water supplies and environments because of freshwater usage and waste disposal practices. This study identifies current practices in mine water, including how water is used in mining, influent and effluent water quality, treatment technologies, and end uses with the goal of informing future research on implementable, reliable, and cost-effective advanced water treatment in the mining sector. This study also reviews the available literature to broadly evaluate mining in the United States and performs a techno-economic assessment on water use and disposal for three detailed case studies applicable to lithium, uranium, and copper mines. These case studies highlight specific industry examples of distinct extraction methods, geographical regions, and mined commodities. Hypothetical scenarios based on case study baselines revealed potential impacts to mine water available for beneficial reuse through the use of novel water treatment technologies and alternate water management strategies. Finally, an assessment of national level impacts resulting from the reuse of treated mine source water is presented.