Process Lead for Minewater Treatment
“Water efficiency in mining is not just about technology and money. It's crucially linked to community development and consensus building. And I relish this challenge.”
Michael Bratty has witnessed a transformation in the mining industry’s approach to water management over the past three decades.
“I started working in mining immediately out of school in 1991. At the time, water stewardship was relatively unknown to most mining companies. These days, it’s hard to keep up with the industry’s demand for new and more efficient water solutions.
“My career began at a small environmental engineering company doing front-end studies for mines,” continues Michael. “I also drove a fast boat to collect water quality samples around shellfish growing areas, seeing every bit of the Inside Passage and Salish Sea off the west coast of Canada.
“My appreciation for water grew quickly, along with the importance of balancing mineral production – which is essential to civilization – with the protection of the natural environment and traditional land uses. There is even greater urgency in mineral production as we ramp up the energy transition. The learnings from this period of my life, continue to ring true today.”
The drive for water efficiency
Water management can determine the viability of a mine. But as Michael explains, it also creates a platform for miners to build relationships with local communities.
“One of the challenges for miners is that the industry attracts a lot of public attention and pressure. And this is fair scrutiny, given many mining projects in the past didn’t pay enough attention to responsible water use.
“What gets me out of bed is the opportunity to relegate these negative perceptions to the past. The work we do, and the consultation we do with diverse stakeholders, is vital to building the trust in mining operations and other critical industries.”
Michael believes demonstrating water stewardship is fundamental for miners to earn and maintain the social license to operate.
“Water efficiency goes beyond the pure numbers. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to aim for that will suit every mining operation. A successful water project is about achieving the best results, with technology that is fit for purpose, built on productive relationships with all stakeholders.”
Collaborating across sectors
Michael has seen some of the leading water solutions in mining inspired by ideas from other sectors.
“The water industry is very broad,” he says. “Industrial water treatment engineers frequently work across industries and bring their ideas from one sector to another. For example, today our experience producing ultra-pure water for steam turbines is applicable to green hydrogen production. And the same goes for mining, where water scientists and engineers are striving to innovate for our mining customers at every step.
“I love this part of working at Worley. Our customers have so many water challenges ahead, but it’s a privilege to bring our expertise together across sectors to help overcome them.
“Water scarcity is a real risk to billions more people in the coming decades, but it’s not an inevitability,” continues Michael. “We’re working hard to prevent this in the regions where we work, while enabling our customers to supply the critical minerals and low carbon energy required for the energy transition.”