Mine water supply assessment and evaluation of the system response to the designed demand in a desert region, central Saudi Arabia Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The efficient use of water resources in arid region has become highly relevant in the evaluation and mining planning, since the exploration phase to closure. The objective of the numerical groundwater model was to assess the potential for groundwater extraction to meet mine water demand from one of the driest area in the world. Numerical groundwater models were used to assess groundwater resource. Modelling was undertaken using MODFLOW-SURFACT code, an advanced MODFLOW based code, within the framework of Visual MODFLOW version 4.6. A steady state model was developed to assess the regional groundwater flow pattern and to calibrate the recharge and hydraulic conductivity parameters in the model. The model was calibrated with a correlation of coefficient of 0.997, and root-mean-squared error is 0.3 m. A transient simulation model was used to predict the impact of 1.5 million cubic metre/year extraction for 10 years on the main aquifer hydrogeological regime, including after cession of pumping. Modelling simulated four hydrogeological scenarios. Model results for the 'worst case' scenario suggested that the Saq Sandstone aquifer should be capable of supplying the mine water demand (1.5 million cubic metre (MCM)/year) for 10 years. However, the long-term water-level drawdown shows a continuous decrease without achieving steady state conditions; thus, the majority of water is being taken from aquifer storage, and in the long term, there will be a mutual interference from a borefield located to the north of the model area. In this area, the hydraulic gradient is relatively steep and over-pumped for more than 28 years. Other scenario shows that there will be a recovery of around 8 m out of the 11.6-m drawdown, after 18 years of cession of pumping, implying that the aquifer will be stressed and a large percentage of water taken from aquifer storage. To minimise hydrogeological impacts, it is recommended to laterally spread out production bores, bores should be located where the Saq Sandstone is deepest, and operate the bores at low extraction rates. Overall, this study presents a useful numerical model output for mine water supply assessment and will contribute towards improving water resources management under different conditions in one of the world driest area.

publication date

  • 2016