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Integrated water management of Mediterranean phosphate mining and local agricultural systems

Final Report Summary - ELMAA (Integrated water management of Mediterranean phosphate mining and local agricultural systems)

The phosphate industry is a major contributor to the economy of some Mediterranean countries (i.e. Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, etc). Large volumes of water are required by the mining industry from areas where water resources are scarce or limited. Water scarcity may be worsened by a degradation of the water quality after phosphate processing. The pressure on water is liable to hamper the development of phosphate industry and results in competition with other water reliable economic sectors such as agriculture or tourism. The 'Integrated water management of Mediterranean phosphate mining and local agricultural systems' (ELMAA) project meets these strategic needs: to reduce tensions on water resources (quantity and quality) at regional scale and to consolidate the sustainable development of the phosphate mining industry.

The development of a methodology of analysis of the integrated management of water in the influence zone of phosphate mines meets a strategic need: to reduce existing tensions on water resources (quantity and quality) to consolidate the development of the phosphate industry in the Mediterranean countries with due respect of other branches of activity. It should be recalled that the risk of a water shortage is liable to hamper the development of mining operations located in the most arid zones (southern Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan), or even the opening of new deposits. The anticipated benefits are commensurate with the challenges associated with the phosphate industry.

The ELMAA project focuses in priority on the coupled management of water between the mining and agricultural industries, given the importance of the latter sector for the economy and the development of the Mediterranean countries.

A number of European studies on the integrated management of water resources demonstrate the advantage of decision support system (DSS) type tools as a basis for common negotiation for all the water players. The first innovation of ELMAA will be to transpose this type of holistic modelling approach to the context of the phosphate industry of the Mediterranean countries and to develop a specific DSS (relying on knowhow acquired in previous projects) mobilising a wide range of skills (process engineering, agronomy, socio-economics, hydrogeology, modelling and information technology).

Besides, the construction of the DSS implies an upstream investigation of technological innovations aiming to reduce the pressure on water resources (particularly in mining and agricultural sectors) and to limit the environmental impact of phosphate mining.

ELMAA also takes into account the recommendations and strategic approach of the European Water Framework Directive with respect to the promotion of:

i) water use for long-term protection of this resource, and
ii) participatory approaches to design water-management policies.

The objectives of ELMAA fit into this framework by:

i) formulating proposals to improve the availability of water resources (examination of the possibilities of re-use of waters, control of losses) and
ii) promoting a participative approach associating different water players (stakeholders) of various sectors (e.g. mining and agriculture) who may have divergent views, and who can highlight some of the conflicts (still existing or potential) in water needs.

Another objective of ELMAA, taking account of the difficulties, obstacles, conflicts and problems posed by water management, will be to contribute to the foundations of an institutional framework that is an incentive and encouragement to the improvement of water availabilities, to its economy and its sharing. The ELMAA project will be a valuable source of inspiration for decision-makers and end-users in the ongoing process of water policy review. This approach will be based on the European directive with due respect of regional specificities. In terms of environment, this project will also contribute to the effort made by the phosphate industry to meet the most stringent national and international standards for environmental conservation.

The phosphate industry is a vector of trade between the countries of the southern rim of the Mediterranean and Europe. Exchanges naturally cover the export of phosphate products intended to cover the needs of the European agricultural sector and the resulting financial flows. Europe-Mediterranean links extend far beyond this. Commercial exchanges also underlie transfers of technology and many scientific and technical exchanges. ELMAA will help to reinforce these links. The recommendations that will be formulated on completion of the project will be the subject of action plans that will represent a new field of partnership and cooperation between the European and Mediterranean countries. The action plan comprises both proposals of scientific and technical projects and the development of an institutional framework that is an incentive to the economy and protection of water resources. This latter point will lead to the adaptation of the general principles of the European framework directive on water or of the European resolution on mining wastes.

The effective dissemination of the methodologies and tools developed in ELMAA is a key step to achieve an effective appropriation by the phosphate industry of the Mediterranean basin but also by all the stakeholders faced with the management of scarce water resources, most particularly in the phosphate mining area, but also beyond. The appropriation of ELMAA results by all the actors involved in water management will be the necessary condition for the propositions made in the framework of the ELMAA project to lead to concrete action plans and effective measures.

The consortium participants will undertake the dissemination of the scientific and technical results through normal channels: submittal of papers to technical and scientific journals; presentation to conferences and seminars, dedicated web site. ELMAA will rely on the Arab Fertiliser Association for targeted dissemination to the phosphate industry. One of the major actions for disseminating the project results will consist in organising an international workshop dedicated to water management in the phosphate mining industry.

One of the main actions for disseminating the project results consisted in organising an international workshop dedicated to water management in the phosphate mining industry. This workshop was held in Marrakech (Morocco) on 19th March 2009 during the Covaphos III conference, the third International conference on the valorisation of phosphates and phosphorus compounds.

Moreover, the consortium participants undertook the dissemination of the scientific and technical results through submittal of papers to technical and scientific journals, presentations in conferences and seminars, and creation of a dedicated web site.

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