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Estimation of Water Footprint of an industrial processing plant of gold minerals in the town of Vetas Colombia

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
6. Water and sustainable growth
Author(s): walter pardave
walter pardave

Keyword(s): water footprint, river tributaries, mineral beneficiation
Article: Poster:


The process of gold extraction and have a great impact on the environment by the use of chemicals (mainly mercury and cyanide) with a high degree of toxicity to both ecosystems and to the human species. Although estimates of consumption have mercury and cyanide in gold mining, it still lacks indicators to establish the environmental impact caused by these contaminants in the water resource.

Water Footprint is relatively new (Hoekstra and Hung 2002), and its main background three concepts: Ecological Footprint, Carbon Footprint and Virtual Water. All these indicators are aimed to quantify the impact either on the water, air or soil generated by the growth of the human population, but also are indicators to make decisions at all levels (public policies, business policies or just cultural changes in societies).

The following paper aims to estimate the environmental impact of a beneficiation plant auriferous minerals by the indicator water footprint, which allows not only analyze actual consumption of water in stages from extraction of minerals rocks to obtain a gravimetric gold concentrate but also to quantify the degree of pollution generated mainly by dumping Surata was a tributary of the river. In this first approach is taken into account Water Footprint Water Footprint Blue and Grey. The determination of the corresponding flows for each unit operation shows that the operation of the mill as an initial area consumes a sub blue water footprint equal to 1.15 m3 / day .The two Wilfley tables located in the gold processing plant recovery and employment show water for processing of 0.55 m3 / day and the final stages of sedimentation of queues and means ore, subsequent dumping of tailings process the tributary of Suratá river show a consumption equal to 5.16 m3 / day., indicating the final stage of the process in the plant, is the one that requires greater consumption of water treatment. The results become a tool for decision making in the municipality and also to the environmental authorities and water; because they allow direct the public and private actions towards activities that are most affecting the water resources of the area that generates drinking water for a population of about one million inhabitants. To complement the results and have a broader view of environmental sustainability processing of gold-bearing minerals, is necessary to evaluate aspects such as the water supply of the area, it identifies whether the sector is demanding more water than is available.

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