AMD remains an unclear issue

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 27 Sep 2011

Despite releasing a report that examined Acid Mine Drainage and its effects and pledging R225m for its treatment the Inter Ministerial Committee has no clear plan yet for tackling the problem, beyond accepting that AMD is an issue.

There is no indication that the mining industry is thinking about taking responsibility

This view was presented by Dr Anthony Turton, Vice President of the International Water Resource Association (IWRA), while addressing delegates at the second annual Mine Water Management Conference in Johannesburg.

He went on to explain that even if government did formulate a proper plan it would be very difficult to implement as the mining industry was not cooperating with government to solve the problem.

A game of chess was used by Turton as a comparison for the situation saying that the game was between the mining industry as a collective entity and government as a collective entity and that unfortunately the industry would stay ahead of government.

“I think we are approaching that position where checkmate is about to happen and I think that the mining industry is going to checkmate government because at the end of the day it’s going to come down to the nationalisation of the liabilities and until such time as the mining industry says they are going to pick up those liabilities … government is going to pick them up and thus taxpayers are going to pick up the associated costs.” Continue reading AMD remains an unclear issue

Toxic water can be purified to drinkable water

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 July 2011

By Kristin Palitza

South African scientists have developed an environmentally friendly method to clean highly toxic water and convert it into drinkable water. Once available commercially, the method could drastically reduce the negative impact industry has on water pollution worldwide.

Eutectic freeze crystallisation could be used in the mining sector

Called eutectic freeze crystallisation, the technique freezes acidic water – or brine – to produce potable or drinking water as well as useful salts, such as sodium and calcium sulphate.

Alison Lewis, professor for chemical engineering at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who has led the research since 2007, claims 99.9 percent of the polluted water can be reused after applying the new technique. Unlike other water cleaning methods, it practically doesn’t produce any toxic waste.

“It’s an environmentally friendly and cost-effective technology that can be used pretty much in all industrial sectors that pollute water and thus produce brine,” explains Lewis. This includes sectors like mining, the oil and gas industry, chemical industry, paper processing or sewerage.

The simultaneous separation and purification method is based on bringing the contaminated water temperature down to reach its eutectic point – the lowest possible temperature of solidification. At this point, toxins crystallise to form salts and sink to the ground, while the clean water turns into ice, floating on the surface.

“By its nature, ice is the purest form of water because it repels any impurities. It’s actually very simple,” explains Lewis. “The method is ecologically significant because it can turn toxic waste into a useful product.” Continue reading Toxic water can be purified to drinkable water

Solutions to acid mine drainage to receive highest priority

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 13 June 2011

Environmental officials are working around the clock to curb the potential dangers posed by the impact of acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand mining area, government news agency BuaNews reported on Monday.

Acid mine water overflowing from an old mine shaft on the Black Reef Incline, near Rand Uranium's treatment pond, 30 January 2010.

An expert team appointed by Cabinet to advise the interministerial committee on the dangers of acid mine drainage to Gauteng warned earlier this year of the need to avert an impending crisis.

The team, drawn from the Council for Geosciences and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), among others, identified various risk categories, including the contamination of surface and ground water required for agricultural and human consumption.

Their recommendations were housed in an acid mine drainage report.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Water Affairs this week, “important progress” had been made by the state in implementing the immediate and short-term actions recommended in the acid mine drainage report. Continue reading Solutions to acid mine drainage to receive highest priority

Mine levy to fund treatment of acid water

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 March 2011

The government is looking at introducing a tax on mines as a way to force them to pay for the drainage of acid mine water into the water system.

Acid mine drainage seepage above an old abandoned underground coal mine near Witbank. Picture by: Christy van der Merwe

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Johannesburg on Saturday that even though the government had provided R400 million for clearing and cleaning derelict mines, it was not going to “keep quiet and sit back”.

“Other mines will become derelict into the future. That is when the drainage starts,” she said.

“We have decided that even though we are funding this project, we will follow up with users and operators and using Section 19 and 20 of the Water Act to try and retrieve money for them,” she said.

“We are investigating a possible environmental levy of some sort or a tax, which is money we will be able to use to clean up where a problem of this nature occurs.”

Molewa said the department was working closely with mining houses to recycle mine water.

“We are investigating whether we can use this water as grey water for industry or potable water for drinking,” she said, adding that the department was exploring a range of ways to improve the efficiency of South Africa’s water usage. Continue reading Mine levy to fund treatment of acid water

AMD to be pumped only in 2012

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 February 2011

The government plans to set up a chain of pumping stations and treatment plants to prevent toxic liquids that are building up in defunct gold mines beneath Johannesburg from reaching dangerous levels.

Acid mine water overflowing from an old mine shaft on the Black Reef Incline, near Rand Uranium's treatment pond, 30 January 2010. Photo under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 licence.

The costs will be made known in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s national Budget today. But the government insists that the clock is not ticking as acidic mine water is expected to reach environmentally critical levels under Johannesburg only by June 2012, according to government officials and scientists at a briefing yesterday.

The cabinet also agreed that “further work needs to be done” to investigate the possibility of an environmental levy – to be spent on restoring the environment in mined areas – for consideration by the cabinet.

Water has already leaked from old mines west of Johannesburg in the “western basin”.

“Work in the western basin is immediate,” Thibedi Ramontja, the chief executive of the Council for Geoscience, said after the briefing.

Federation for a Sustainable Environment chief executive Mariette Liefferink said yesterday that while it was heartening for the government to acknowledge the threat of acid mine drainage, pumping the poisonous water only in March 2012 was a reactive measure. Continue reading AMD to be pumped only in 2012