It is commonly accepted that South Africa is a water-stressed country but, as a developing country, the balance between growth and the exploitation of natural resources is a sensitive matter, says mining investment company Menar.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) noted that the 2017 national water consumption for each sector was attributable as follows: agriculture 62%, municipal 27%, afforestation 3%, industry 3%, mining 3% and energy 2%.
Menar notes that even though mining consumes a minimal amount of water when compared with other sectors, the industry is heavily reliant on water and has the responsibility to look after this resource to secure its own functioning.
The company understands and appreciates the water situation, noting that an increasing national water deficit is a fragile scenario that requires all sectors, to be more sensible in the use of available water resources.
Menar, through operational subsidiaries, has implemented various measures to minimise water consumption and conserve water resources in and around its operations.
All of the company’s operational mines have approved water-use licences (WUL), issued by the DWS in terms of the National Water Act. These WULs have very stringent conditions and are guided by recommendations made by specialists during the compilation of the WUL applications.
Menar’s employees and contractors are contractually bound to adhere to the conditions of the WULs, and the WUL stipulations as well as general water awareness training material are communicated at the individual operations. Further, the company undertakes internal and external audits to ensure compliance.
“Flowmeters are installed at all locations where water is extracted or moved between facilities at operations. The volumes are recorded to, firstly, measure compliance with the WUL conditions and, secondly, monitor the company in terms of its water use,” says Menar group projects manager Clifford Hallatt.
Menar currently has nine processing plants, each equipped with a filter press which mechanically dewaters the ultra-fine coal material using special filter mediums to exert pressure on the coal material to separate solids and liquids. These presses result in the recycling of 30% to 40% of water, resulting in a great reduction in the total water use.
Additionally, all Menar mines operate closed water systems. This means that no contaminated water leaves the site but is collected in pollution control dams (PCD).This water is, in turn, used for dust suppression within the mine’s boundary and also pumped from the PCD back to the processing plants for reuse.
Inflow from ground- and rainwater into the opencast pits is also used to supplement the water requirements at the operations, be it for dust suppression or processing requirements. This reduces the need to source water from outside the mine boundary and, in so doing, preserves surrounding water resources.
Moreover, chemical toilets, a waterless system, are used at all sites which further reduces the overall water requirements at the company’s operations.
Meanwhile, Menar has recently installed a sewage treatment plant (STP) at Khanye Colliery, near Bronkhorstspruit. This STP treats sewage water from the mine and discharges treated water into an adjacent wetland system. The quality of the water is tested on an ongoing basis and the results “continuously exceed” the acceptable discharge standards.
It also supplies neighbouring communities at the Zululand Anthracite Colliery with more than 42-million litres of potable water every year.
Conservation, protection and sensible use of Menar’s valuable water resources is the collective responsibility of all users. It needs to be recognised that the country relies heavily on limited available water sources so as to avoid the major socioeconomic challenges and effects of a dearth of water supply.