How Much Is Enough? Developing an International Standard of Reporting for Mine Water Hydrogeology
Jones & Wagener, South Africa
International standards and guidelines exist for the reporting of mineral resources (SAMREC), (engineering and hydro-) geological investigations (ASTM) and environmental geochemical characterisation (GARD) in the mining industry. Yet, hydrogeological investigations have fallen by the wayside in this regard, relying on governmental guidelines of subjective judgement. How much data is enough? When is site hydrogeology characterised sufficiently to a mining operation’s scope? An internationally recognised standard of reporting is lacking to reach concordance on reporting quality of hydrogeological investigations and data. A document of this nature reduces potential for subjective analysis and argumentative discussion on viewpoints based on different schools of thought, often ignoring data validity for doctrine. Implementation of peer-reviewed standards ensures meaningful and defensible hydrogeological investigations resulting in lowered expenditure in a mining operation and improves safety, often neglected in favour of production.
This study reviews and analyses existing methods and guidelines to produce standardised guidelines similar to ASTM or SAMREC. However, this is the first step in an extended research endeavour to incorporate international practices to compile this type of document that could be released in future as a reporting standard. This research explores fundamental principles of groundwater movement and which influences could be present on a mining site, identifying characterisation methods for each and the level of data required for various levels of their characterisation, as well as a concordant reporting standard.
Various guidelines exist for specific aspects of hydrogeological studies in mining environments which include scientific publications and governmental guidelines for various countries. However, none provide exact or internationally accepted standard approaches. Examples of this include how many pumping tests to conduct on site based on the number of major hydrogeological structures, how many water samples are representative of the area, how many solid waste samples are representative of the source areas on a site, how much data is sufficient to build a reliable model and how many parts of the hydrogeological environment should be addressed for a risk assessment. Therefore, preliminary factors are investigated and explained which will be further expanded with peer-review.
The application of this study will relate to mining environments and the required standards to fully understand the associated hydrogeological environments to an acceptable level based on the certainty level required by the specific study. This implies that reporting for hydrogeological studies can be performed according to an international benchmark which will improve mine planning while minimising hydrogeological impacts and liabilities.