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Mining industry funds Australian groundwater modelling research

Two of the world’s largest mining companies are investing in a new project to improve groundwater modelling in Australia.

BHP and Rio Tinto will provide $2.6 million to fund the Groundwater Modelling Decision Support Initiative over the next three years. 

The project will be managed by Flinders University’s National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and aims to improve groundwater modelling, frameworks and practices.

Led by NCGRT Director Craig Simmons, researchers will work on issues including uncertainty analysis, modelling in a risk-based framework, data-worth analysis and data assimilation.

Simmons said this will result in long-term improvements to groundwater modelling, which is crucial for more reliable management, policy, regulation and decision-making.

This is particularly important as groundwater plays a vital role in Australia’s water security and in industries including mining, energy and agriculture.

“Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world and groundwater is fundamental to our future,” Simmons said.

“Groundwater models are at the heart of environmental impact statements that underpin mining and coal seam gas development proposals, and establishing water allocation plans.”

Blair Douglas, BHP Global Practice Lead – Hydrology, said the company recognises the importance of responsible water stewardship for the long-term sustainability of the mining industry, especially for operations based in remote Australia.

“We have a responsibility to effectively manage and minimise our impacts on water resources,” Douglas said.

"Effective groundwater modelling and working collaboratively on technical challenges plays an important role in decision-making for industry, communities and governments, and we are pleased to support the NCGRT’s work.”

As well as research, the initiative will include ongoing workshops, group meetings and steering committees made up of stakeholders from industry, government, consulting and academia.

The inaugural workshop was held in Canberra recently and attracted more than 100 local and international groundwater experts.