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Today’s Mining: Sustainability Revolution Prompts Innovative Engineering

When mining giant Rio Tinto decided to expand its iron ore production in Pilbara region of Western Australia, they faced a problem. While the remote region accounts for more than 40 percent of the world's iron ore production, it is also one of the driest parts of the world. Ironically, however, the problem for Rio Tinto's expansion was too much water: the new ore the company wanted to reach lay underneath huge underground aquifers, which meant that the company had to do something with the excess water that came up.

Not wanting to let such volumes of water go to waste, the company considered a number of options. In the end, however, Rio Tinto came up with a plan to divert water to irrigation to grow wheat, both as feed for cattle operations and to sell to local farmers.

Dennis Gibson, Chief Technical Officer for mining at Black & Veatch, pointed to the Pilbara mine as just one example of how a quiet revolution in mining company culture is leading to a much greater emphasis on sustainability in the industry. Gibson was general manager of the Pilbara project at the time of the water project's initiation. He came to Black & Veatch in 2012 to help integrate the company's expertise into the global mining sector.

“Mining companies have really upped their game when it comes to sustainability."

Dennis Gibson, Chief Technical Officer for mining at Black & Veatch

@black_veatch