Emma Gagen

Emma Gagen

Company: ICMM

Job title: Manager Closure and Water


Emma has a PhD in Environmental Microbiology and 12 years of experience in mine rehabilitation, land and water management developed through her post-PhD research in biogeochemistry and as a lecturer on environmental management in mining at the University of Queensland. Her work has focused strongly on the interface between academia and industry, with interdisciplinary projects based on harnessing biogeochemical processes for rehabilitation of iron ore mines in Brazil and accelerating the transformation of coal mine spoil into topsoil in Australia. Before joining the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)  in 2022 as the Manager for the Closure and Water programs, Emma was Lead Technical Advisor in the Office of the Queensland Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner, Australia focusing on best practice mine rehabilitation.

Emma recently took part in our speaker Q&A. Hear what he has to say below:

  1. Why should mining companies prioritise water stewardship in the age of critical resources? If we are going to increase the supply of minerals and metals needed to meet the requirements for the clean energy transition, it is fundamental that we do it in a way that doesn’t hurt people and the planet. Water stewardship by definition is about using water in a manner that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial. Water has important cultural, social, environmental and economic value, and is a shared and precious resource. A water stewardship approach is the best way for mining companies to approach material water risks and opportunities, whether they relate to regulatory processes, operational resilience in the face of climate change, or local communities.
  2. Why does the industry need to adapt its water management strategy across the whole life of a mine?  Traditionally, water is a centre stage issue at the earliest phase of mine life (pre-approvals stage) and during operationss as all aspects of mining and processing depend on it. We are now also increasingly seeing greater expectations from communities and regulators for sustainable post-closure outcomes after the operational phases of mine life. Sustainable post-closure outcomes are only achieved when closure planning and execution is integrated throughout the whole life of mine. As some of the biggest challenges to successful mine closure and relinquishment relate to water (for example, ongoing water treatment costs, management of potential impacts to regional water systems, dewatering of slurry tailings storage facilities), integrating closure planning and execution into water management strategies throughout the life of mine, is fundamental to successful closure. ICMM members have committed to continual improvement in environmental performance including through planning and design for closure. The ICMM Integrated Mine Closure Good Practice Guide is a fantastic resource to support effective mine closure planning, including consideration of water management strategies that will underpin successful closure and post-closure outcomes.
  3. What can we expect from your contribution at the 2023 Water in Mining Global Summit? In recent years we have seen increasing momentum around the global biodiversity action agenda. In 2022, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was signed, signifying the start of a global commitment to 4 goals and 23 targets relating to nature protection, conservation and restoration. We have also seen a rapid expansion in sustainability reporting frameworks in response to investor sentiment about nature-negative actions. Water is central to all aspects of our global conversations about nature, biodiversity and sustainability. At the 2023 Water in Mining Global Summit I will delve into the nature-water nexus in a mining context and explore the implications of, and opportunities arising from, the nature-positive movement.
  4.  Tell us about an exciting project or change you’ve been working on to improve water management or stewardship in the industry. ICMM members have committed to implementing water stewardship practices that provide for strong and transparent water governance, effective and efficient management of water at operations, and collaboration with stakeholders at a catchment level to achieve responsible and sustainable water use. This year we are developing a water stewardship maturity framework to assist members understand where they are in their water stewardship journey and chart a course of action for the future. The water stewardship maturity framework will enable operations to map and measure the status of their operations and identify the required actions to strengthen their systems, processes or practices to improve water stewardship towards leading practice. We are excited to be supporting improved water stewardship across the industry -stay tuned for launch of the maturity framework later this year.
  5. What are you most looking forward to when you attend the Water in Mining Global Summit? I always value the Water in Mining Global Summit for the opportunity to hear about leading practices in water management from around the globe. This peer-to-peer sharing is fundamental to collective improvement! This year I am also looking forward to the reduced travel restrictions facilitating more face-to-face interactions in Toronto. Collaboration is such an important part of solving industry-wide water challenges and of effective catchment-based approaches to water stewardship. I am looking forward to strengthening existing collaborations and making new connections at the Water in Mining Global Summit.


The role of mining in achieving a nature-positive future 9:30 am

Demystifying how to strengthen stewardship and coordinate at a landscape level to enhance stakeholder inclusion. Analyzing site and catchment-based approaches to be more aligned with the stewardship maturity framework and how it works with the water accounting framework.  Chaired by Lesley Warren, Director, Lassonde Institute of Mining Read more

day: 26 April 2023

PANEL DISCUSSION: Is the mining industry innovating enough? 4:30 pm

How can regulators and association championing innovation in water management further?  Where can the mining industry look to for inspiration and shared learnings?  How can the industry mitigate risk of adopting new technologies for water treatment?  What are the consequences of not innovating?   Chaired by Eduardo Marquez, PhD Candidate, University of SaskatchewanRead more

day: 25 April 2023