A year ago I had the opportunity to talk about open source software for water resources to several mining professionals. I remenber that I gave the maximum of my communicational skills to describe the complete perpective of the available open source tools for water resources as well as specific applications on the mining industry. Based on my experience as teacher, along the conference development, I knew that there was a problem on the communication process; the language was right, the channel was okay, but it might be that the message was wrong. At the end of the presentation, there was no questions, not even a single commentary about an application of open source software in mining water management.
Open source software for water resources has been widely adopted on regulatory officials, universities, private consultants, reseach institutions, NGOs and others, but it seems that the word “open” has no reached the minning industries specialy on the water management and environmental studies.
The mining industry is on a high innovation process, and there are many cases of innovations in the use of robotics, evaluation of deposits, process automatization, communication, transportation and even mine drainage. On the publication from the Mining Association of Canada: “100 innovations in the mining industry” there is no reference to open source software.
Usually mining is a interesting industry for water resources engineers and environmental specialists. Most innovation in mining come with high profitable contracts, licences and services; however, why should the mining industry look for free and open solutions if mining has the money to buy commercial products?
Free is not the only advantage
Open source software is free, and it comes with very open licences that provide full functionality in every industry without cost. But the economic side is not the main advantage, the main advantage is that the software is highly accesible, for every proffesional in every sector of the company.
Its a matter of communication, from results and evaluations; a matter of the increase in the quality control and the compliance with the regulatory officials. Open source software provides a environment of less procedures to obtain the computational tools required in mining, with open source software there are no license renovations or upgrades.
One main concern to mining professionals is the software support. On commercial products this service is traditional offered by companies related to the commercial software provider; on open source software, support can be offered by skilled independent professionals on site or remotely.
Open source in mining water management
There are many applications of open source software in mining. The list of avaialable applications can be huge, we will mention some applications based of different softwares.
Modflow is a open source software for groundwater modeling developed by the USGS. Modflow can handle the whole mine pit drainage modeling and the impact evaluation to wetlands and streams. Numerical simulations for underground mine inflows along the mine life are also possible.
MT3D and Phast
These are the latest developments from the USGS for solute transport and reaction modeling. Numerical simulations of the contaminant pluma and the fate of contaminants are essential for mine closure planning
OpenFOAM can model any flow (water, air, and heat). This software is useful for non newtonian flows as tailings, as well as for the mixing zone analysis from treatment plant efluents
Hed Res Sim
This software is developed by the USACE for reservoir modeling. It can handle the operation of tailings dam, mine inflow, extreme precipitation and drough reserve.