A new model has been created to show, with enhanced clarity, the best ways for mining companies to manage water resources and other environmental assets.

The model was unveiled at MODSIM2013 over the weekend; the 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation.

The advanced piece of programming aims to forecast future mine water needs to help the industry address the challenges of both excessive water and insufficient water on mine sites.

It is built on the back of research conducted in the Bowen Basin in Queensland; home to Australia’s largest coal reserves, and one of the most highly variable climates in the world.

“The coal mining industry is accountable for managing its mine water use, including complying with discharge regulations,” said head of CSIRO's Water in the Resources Sector research Professor Damian Barrett.

“Our research is demonstrating how to reach the 'Goldilocks' state in water management. That is, not having too much or too little water but having just the right amount of water on mine sites for when it is needed.”

Users of the new model can use it to look at their situation from three different perspectives.

One is the business perspective, where capturing the mine operation practices within a mine or across several mines or companies.

Another is the environmental perspective; which represents all known relevant climate change patterns such as rainfall and catchment histories and weather forecast data.

There is also a final decision perspective which weighs business against the environment to develop strategies that best meet both needs.

“We applied the scenario model to a number of constructed case studies including single mine sites and multiple mines sites, with the multiple mine site case studies exploring water sharing and trading opportunities among mine sites,” said Professor Barrett.

“This methodology provides a rigorous and objective technique for developing management strategies and assessing risk.”

“Through improved seasonal climate forecasts, the assessment of the effectiveness of water sharing and trading among multiple sites and the cost benefit analysis of establishing water management infrastructure, our research is helping to guide the coal industry towards better water management that balances the needs of business with the needs of the environment,” he said.

The new software is just a small part of work undertaken by CSIRO through its Water for a Healthy Country Flagship to improve water resource management in the mining sector.