Isando-based analytical laboratory Set Point Laboratories – a subsidiary of industrial group Torre Industries – has seen an increased number of enquiries and work for its water laboratory division over the past 12 months, says Set Point senior analyst Moses Lelaka.
The increased demand for the services of the water laboratory, established in 2009, can be attributed to the environmental challenges and climate change in Southern Africa, particularly because South Africa and its neighbours are “heading into a situation where water, especially potable water, is becoming increasingly scarce”, says Lelaka.
He notes that much interest has come from private citizens and entities that are digging boreholes for their own use, as well as from municipal and provincial water affairs departments trying to find new sources of potable water.
Mines, whose operations are traditionally water-intensive, approach Set Point to determine their impact on the water sources surrounding their operations, particularly groundwater. “Many mining activities, including drilling, using explosives and tailings storage can adversely impact on water quality. Consequently, mines should frequently test their impact on water sources by drilling multiple boreholes and submitting samples to us to ascertain their impact.”
He adds that mines should implement water-testing schedules to ensure compliance with municipal by-laws, as well as regulations set out by the departments of Water and Sanitation, and Environmental Affairs.
Lelaka comments that Set Point analysts test the water monthly at one of its Gauteng-based mining clients. The company is also considering the possibility of having clients and potential clients submit water samples for analysis at mobile laboratories.
However, Lelaka points out that Set Point would have to alter the mobile laboratory concept for water sample analysis. “Water has to be handled differently than minerals,” he states, noting that most water analysis is conducted at Set Point’s Isando premises, in Gauteng. Therefore, a delivery component would have to be investigated.
Set Point has two mobile laboratories at operational mines – a uranium project, in Namibia, and another project, in Gabon. Lelaka hopes that water samples will be submitted by clients other than those in the mining industry, which means that the current mobile model will need to be altered slightly.
Set Point is also expanding its traditional mobile laboratory, offering sample preparation, with Lelaka noting that the company is in talks with a client in Botswana to set up a mobile laboratory at its operation.
Lelaka notes that, despite efforts to diversify into the water space, Set Point is still primarily known for its comprehensive mineral analysis, which provides mining clients with a breakdown of the quantities of minerals in a particular exploration or mining right.
“Our laboratory provides the science behind the mining,” he says, highlighting that for mining clients, Set Point offers sample preparation and analysis, including fire assays, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy, to definitively determine mineral concentrations in a particular sample.
“What makes us competitive is our turnaround time and the accuracy of the results. We are ISO:17025-compliant and South African National Accreditation System-accredited, which serves as confirmation that our results are highly accurate.”
Lelaka adds that Set Point can deliver results within 48 hours to a week, depending on the scope of analytical work required and the location of the operation.
He advises that mining companies looking for analytical services should approach providers that are accredited, whose methodologies are recognised and who can, “99.9% of the time, assure them that their results are as accurate as possible”.
Lelaka notes that exploration and mining are expensive, lengthy exercises and, therefore, companies cannot gamble on the accuracy of their results.
Set Point will exhibit at the 2018 Investing in African Mining Indaba, from February 5 to 8 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The laboratory has exhibited at the event for many years and Lelaka notes that the company has seen enquiries, particularly from African mining companies, increase in the weeks following each Indaba and hopes that this trend continues.