Client: AARC (proponent Shenhuo)
Skills: Climate adaptation risk assessment
Date:  June 2014

Mining operations in Australia are directly exposed to the effects of climate change in particular extreme weather events. Site specific short-term weather forecasting can provide a powerful planning tool for mine site development, expansion and risk management.

Taroborah Coal Mine is a proposed mining project located approximately 20km west of Emerald in Central Queensland. The final ToR (Terms of Reference) called for a climate risk assessment and adaptation strategy for the project. There are a number of approaches to undertaking a climate analysis and establish likely weather conditions that could be expected to occur at the site. For example, long term data sets provide an indication of the likely regional variability of climate and also commentary on the increased or decreased frequency of extreme weather events over time.

extreme weather due to the influence of general circulation patterns (especially El Niño and La Niña) present a more significant climate risk consideration than the effects of climate change

Long term climate variability predictions can have limited application for mining operations where life of mine is expected to occur in the short term; over the next 20 to 30 years. Site-specific climate analysis and weather forecasting for the Taroborah Coal Mine site showed that although long term climate modelling indicates that average climate conditions will be hotter and drier, weather events could be an entirely different story.

Considering climate influences over the life of the Taroborah Coal Project, extreme weather due to the influence of general circulation patterns (especially El Niño and La Niña) present a more significant climate risk consideration than the effects of climate change.

The probability of extreme weather events under anticipated dominant weather systems over the life-of-mine (2015 – 2038) are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1   Extreme weather event probability
Source of climate risk Probability of extreme weather event
Total El Niño La Niña
Intense rainfall 50% 30% 80%
Cyclones 40% 40% 70%
High temperatures 50% 80% 10%
Drought 60% 80% 30%
Strong winds 30% 30% 70%
Damaging winds 10% 10% 10%

The risk assessment methodology applied to the Project is consistent with AS/NZS ISO31000:2009 Risk management – Principles and Guidelines (Standards Australia, 2009), and draws on Draft Australian Standard DR AS5334 – Climate Change Adaptation for Settlements and Infrastructure (Standards Australia, 2011). 

Katestone ran a workshop to determine the potential impacts on mining operations for each of the extreme weather events identified. A risk rating was then determined for each impact. A summary of risk ratings determined for the potential impacts of envisaged climate conditions on the Project is provided in Table 2.

Table 2   Project Climate Risk Assessment 
Impact Description Likelihood Consequence Risk rating
Disruption of operations due to flooding Likely Minor MODERATE
Increased equipment outages due to storm activity Almost certain Minor MODERATE
Infrastructure damage due to cyclones and severe storm events Likely Moderate MODERATE
Reduced water availability for mine site operations Rare Moderate LOW
Disruption of operations issues due to bushfire Possible Minor LOW
Increased dust levels causing disruption to operations Possible Minor LOW
Decreased workforce productivity relating to higher temperatures Possible Minor LOW
It is envisaged that residual risk for each of the impacts identified can be managed to an acceptable level through sound engineering and design as well as active management involving inspection, maintenance and monitoring of stresses and weather activity. Undertaking a climate adaptation assessment provides the opportunity to consider and manage the potential risk of weather to mining operations at the project outset.

The risks identified during the assessment can be prioritized and managed to ensure a more robust design and incorporation into standards and operating procedures as necessary.

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  • Skills ‐ climate adaptation, weather prediction