Monday, 19 November 2012
Top award for Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Scheme using FEFLOW

The Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) recently won top honours at the International Water Association’s prestigious Project Innovation Awards at the World Water Congress in Korea. The prize was awarded for an innovative Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) scheme at Fortescue’s Cloudbreak and Christmas Creek iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. DHI provided assistance to FMG in the design and development of high-spatial-resolution groundwater models using FEFLOW for this project.

The MAR scheme mitigates environmental impact of surface discharge and dewatering drawdown and conserves brackish water resources for future mine water supply. The mine operations are bounded on the south by the Fortescue Marsh, an ephemeral wetland of national significance that is underlain by hypersaline groundwater. The project is one of the largest MAR schemes in Australia and is the first of its kind in highly saline groundwater.

Figure: A Simplified Schematic of The Cloudbreak Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) scheme

The MAR scheme is part of the mine dewatering operation. The scheme allows FMG to pump almost 75% of the extracted water back into the local groundwater system instead discharging it to streams, where it would be largely lost to evaporation in the arid climate. The current operation has been operating as a sustainable ‘closed’ system with zero surface discharge since September 2009. The FEFLOW models enable FMG to predict the movement of the saline/brackish groundwater interface in response to different operating conditions. The models also help forecast the quantity and salinity of groundwater extracted under different mine plans. The current 40-gigalitre/year operation may grow to over 100 gigalitre/year as the Cloudbreak mine expands and the Christmas Creek mine comes on-line.

The Fortescue project showcases how Managed Aquifer Recharge, together with FEFLOW, can be used to meet a range of objectives in a complex environment, including coast aquifers. MAR is relevant in many environments, and is likely to be increasingly used at mine sites around the world facing varied and difficult water management challenges.

For more information please contact Stefan Paul Szylkarski at sps@dhigroup.com

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