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Mining industry contributing towards sustainable water supply in the Northern Cape

30th March 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online

     

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Industry body the Minerals Council South Africa and its members in the Northern Cape have welcomed the completion of the first phase of a project to refurbish the Vaal Gamagara Water Supply Scheme (VGWSS) to ensure water is available to communities, mines, farms and other businesses in the province.

The Minerals Council’s Northern Cape Mine Leadership Forum is posited to be a “critical” partner in ensuring water reaches South Africa’s driest province through the VGWSS pipeline.

The first phase to replace an existing 75 km of pipe between Roscoe and Blackrock is complete, benefiting about 6 000 households, mines, municipalities, farmers and State-owned Transnet.

The construction of the VGWSS was completed in 1968 to provide communities with water and to encourage investment in mining, agriculture and industry in the Northern Cape.

The scheme extracts water from the Vaal river near Barkly West and serves the major towns of Postmasburg, Kathu and Hotazel at its northern-most point. The pipeline has aged and needs urgent upgrading and capacity enhancements, the council points out.

The Northern Cape Mines Leadership Forum has held extensive engagements with the Department of Water and Sanitation and water utility Bloem Water, which is now the custodian of the VGWSS, to find a sustainable solution for the assets in the scheme, as well as the second phase of work to upgrade the pipeline.

“The mining industry has played a responsible role as a key social partner in water supply to the Northern Cape,” the council highlights.

The mining industry consumes about 48% of the water from the system instead of its 59% authorised allocation. This means there is more water available to supplement the balance of water allocated for municipalities catering for communities, agriculture, private businesses, government departments and entities and water user associations, the council points out.

It adds that more than 20 mining companies pay a premium, compared with other users, for water in the scheme towards a capital raising fee to pay for the second phase of the VGWSS upgrade.

So far, R268-million has been raised from the premium and it is ringfenced for the second phase of the pipeline upgrades, which includes upgrading the 260 km pipeline between the Vaal river extraction point and Roscoe near Kathu.

The industry has taken up the responsibility to ensure water continues to flow in the VGWSS, the council acclaims.

The Minerals Council’s Northern Cape Mine Leadership Forum has used R50-million provided by Assmang, which is jointly owned by African Rainbow Minerals and Assore, and which mines manganese and iron-ore in the Northern Cape, in the last few months, to keep VGWSS functional.

The industry has conducted emergency repairs and routine maintenance of the pipeline and pump stations because the now-disestablished Sedibeng Water Board was unable to fulfil its mandate, the council states.

The VGWSS is designed to deliver 34-million litres of water a day but supplies only about 24-million litres.

The council notes that the actions by the mining industry, to date, have met the Northern Cape Mine Leadership Forum’s mandate to “collaborate with key stakeholders to find a suitable solution for a sustainable transition of the asset to ensure a sustainable supply of water”. 

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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