Rivers have always had a special place in human history as facilitators of civilization. From Ancient Egypt’s unique relationship with the Nile to the cities built on the banks of the Euphrates, Tigris, Rhine, Danube, and Loire, human beings have long relied on rivers for drinking water, irrigation, transportation, food, and sanitation.

But what happens when a river is in the way?

Often, mining prospectors will identify deposits of valuable minerals in areas that contain riversor other bodies of water. Although any rivers in the vicinity of a mine will have to be diverted in order to access the minerals, the economic benefit to the region is so unbelievably vast that it can actually make economic sense to do so.

When mines are confronted with the difficult problem of an intervening river, companies like Canada Pump & Power are engaged to divert the flow of water and allow mining operations to begin. This is not only a very complex task, it is an extremely delicate one that requires extensive consultation and careful planning. This is how we do it.

Phase 1: Consultation & Planning

Before a single drop of water is moved, it is absolutely crucial that the planning and consultation process is thorough and inclusive. For example, all of the communities in the surrounding area will need to assent to the project. This is especially the case for indigenous communities, who have specific land use practices, relationships to natural geography, decision-making processes, and goals for the future that must be respected.

Once a vision for the project has been established in collaboration with the people of the area, the environmental assessment can begin. Often a multi-year process, this involves surveying and documenting various forms of aquatic life and vegetation present to aid in their eventual preservation. It also requires extensive modelling in order to develop an understanding of how the surrounding area will be affected by a river diversion.

After the environmental assessment has been completed, the project can move to the planning and engineering phase, where all the details are painstakingly worked out by teams of engineers and other experts. This can also take years.

Phase 2: Preparing the Site

Once a project is ready to break ground, a perimeter is established and the area begins to get cleared for mining work. Any standing bodies of water within the project area, such as lakes or ponds, will get de-watered, or drained, and the fish, turtles, and other wildlife are captured and relocated.

During the construction process, a significant amount of “dirty” water can be generated – water with significant amounts of particulates dissolved in it. This water must be collected and processed carefully, with technologies like diffusers or “geobags” used to filter the water before releasing it back into the environment.

Phase 3: Diverting the River

The final phase of the river diversion project is the work itself. Once the work site is prepared and crews are ready, massive pumping systems are installed to drain the river dry and transport the water to another place. This can entail the transportation of 150,000 cubic meters of water every day – about sixty Olympic-sized swimming pools or enough water to serve the daily residential needs of almost 900,000 people.

In addition to Herculean pumping operations, features like dams, new lakes, and new waterways may have to be constructed in order to accommodate the water in and around the area. This includes all environmental considerations related to wildlife and plant life, and involves a great deal more care than many people might expect from heavy industry!

The Stuff of Life

As valuable as copper, iron, and gold may be, one cannot eat them. Indeed, water is one of the fundamental pillars of life on our planet, and a mining operation that pollutes this resourceduring a lengthy-yet-temporary resource extraction project is ultimately unviable.

Canada Pump & Power is passionate about water, and has helped clients in petroleum, mining, military, and many branches of government develop sustainable and environmentally-respectful approaches to water management. We specialize in diving, pumping, barging, dredging, and design/build solutions.