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Issue 30 of 38 Next Issue | Previous Issue | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38
August 2007
Emalahleni - South Africa's first mine water reclamation project
 

INNOVATION WATER PROJECTS TAKES AWARD

South Africa’s first mine water reclamation project, the Emalahleni Water Treatment Plant – a joint initiative between Anglo Coal and BHP Billiton Energy Coal South Africa (BECSA) – has taken top honours in the Mail & Guardian’s “Greening the future” awards.

These annual awards recognize a particular project, practice or policy that advances environmental responsibility and care and aims to encourage dialogue and assist in shaping policy on environmental governance within the corporate sector.

The R300-million Emalahleni Water Treatment Plant will treat 20 million litres of mine water a day from Anglo Coal’s Greenside, Kleinkopje and Landau operations as well from BECSA’s defunct South Witbank Colliery for supply to the Emalahleni Local Municipality.

The project has been hailed as a pioneering solution, not only to the escalating chronic water shortage facing this region, but also for the local mines trying to manage ever-increasing levels of water in their workings.

Treated water from the plant will be piped directly to the municipality’s daily requirements in supporting household, commercial as well as industrial water needs.


Supply and demand

Executive Mayor of Emalahleni Local Municipality, Councillor Linah Malatjie, has said this project was completed at a time when the municipality was struggling to meet surging demand for clean water.

“As a municipality we are faced with a reality of households that have no access to piped water,” she said. “We are also grappling with the supply and demand balance. The current demand for raw water stands at 120 megalitres a day and our licence permits us to draw a maximum of 75 megalitres a day from the Witbank dam.

“Our municipality is determined to ensure that no household is without clean water by 2008, so the supply of water from this plant will go a long way to make sure that we achieve this objective.”

Chief executive officer of Anglo Coal South Africa, Ben Magara, says: “This project is a first of its kind in the country, where mine water, which is a liability to the environment, is treated and turned into potable water for human consumption. Access to clean water is a basic need and this project will go a long way in assisting the municipality achieves its Millennium Development Goals by providing clean water to the community.

“Anglo Coal is proud to be associated with a project of this nature, which is testimony that South Africa’s future is alive with possibilities. We will continue to work with all spheres of government and other like-minded organizations such as BECSA, to contribute to the socio-economic development of our communities.”

BECSA’s chief operating officer, Wayne Isaacs, emphasizes the synergies released through collaboration, describing this project as a shining example of intersecting objectives resulting in a solution that exceeds anything that either of the mining companies or the municipality could have achieved on their own.

The water treatment plant also has the potential for further downstream opportunities such as water bottling and production of gypsum and, should these come to fruition, they would provide further employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in addition to the people currently employed at the plant.

 

EMALAHLENI WATER RECLAMATION PROJECT

The Emalahleni Water Reclamation Project is a public-private partnership that has turned an environmental liability into an opportunity. The plant, located at Greenside Colliery in Witbank, Mpumalanga, is a R300-million capital project born out of the need to prevent rising underground mine water from decanting environment. It is a joint venture between Anglo Coal South Africa and BHP Billiton.

The primary purpose of the project is to remove water from the underground workings of four mines and to desalinate it to potable quality for supply to the municipality’s final bulk water reservoirs. Once fully operational, the plant will meet about 20% of the local authority’s daily water requirements.

The Emalahleni Water Reclamation Plant removes water stored in the underground workings of four mining operations – Anglo Coal’s Kleinkopje, Greenside and Landau collieries and BHP Billiton Energy Coal South Africa’s (BECSA) now defunct South Witbank Mine.

It two main purposes are to prevent polluted water from filtering into the environment and valuable coal reserves from being sterilized.

To achieve these goals, Anglo Coal and BECSA decided to construct a 20 megalitres a day desalination plant to treat excess mine water and started negotiations with the Emalahleni Local Municipality with a view to supplementing the municipality’s water supply with this treated water.

An even bigger challenge was to select desalination technology that would minimize water recovery to in excess of 99% and minimize waste production and disposal.

The plant comprises the following components: 

  • Mine water collection pump stations and pipe work from the contributing Kleinkopje, Greenside, Landau and South Witbank collieries to the central treatment facility.
  • A central mine water storage dam
  • A mine water treatment plant
  • Potable water storage reservoirs
  • A potable water distribution pipeline to the municipal reservoirs
  • Water disposal distribution systems and disposal facilities. 

There are several critical benefits of the Emalahleni Water Reclamation Project.

Underground water in coal mines sterilizes valuable coal reserves, while also posing safety and productivity risks. By removing rising underground water from the underground workings these risks are eliminated. 

In addition, the project addresses the environmental liabilities associated with underground water, by preventing polluted water from decanting into the local river system. 

Thirdly, water shortages have been identified as an ongoing problem in the Emalahleni region. The plant desalinates water to potable quality for supply to the Emalahleni Municipality’s final reservoirs. With substantial growth (more than 3% annual growth in water demand) taking place in the Emalahleni region, this project will help to meet rapidly growing municipal, commercial and industrial water needs. 

The project also helps offset the over-abstraction of the Witbank Dam by the Emalahleni Local Municipality to meet growing water needs, while assisting it to meet the targets set by the department of Water Affairs and forestry. 

This in turn has an incremental benefit on downstream users and assists with the future economic growth activities in the Middle Olifants Catchments area.

In the design process, desalination technology that maximized water recovery (yield) and minimized waste was a top priority. The ultimate target is for the project to turn into a zero waste disposal plant.

 

Spin-off employment opportunities

Anglo Coal is currently looking into numerous ways of using solid and liquid waste, which may create spin-off employment opportunities, while generating further environmental benefits. 

There are two projects looking at converting the gypsum waste into either pure by-product like sulphur, magnesium carbonate and limestone or as building and mining products. The liquid waste or brine can be used to grow algae suitable to produce health products like spirulina or beta-carotene or even maybe bio-diesel.
These projects are all in the feasibility stage and could generate into a black economic empowerment (BEE) company treating the wastes from the water plant. The Anglo Zimele board has approved the establishment of a BEE company to bottle a small portion of the water for commercial distribution.     

 

 

 

 

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