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The complexities of sustainable water management in mining

water management - miningwater management - mining
water management - miningwater management - mining


The complexities of sustainable water management in mining

South Africa has a wide variety of minerals such as diamond, gold, iron ore, platinum, manganese, and is known globally for its mining sector.

Throughout the years, the mining sector has remained the core contributor to the South African economy. However, despite it being beneficial for the economy, the mining sector also has its downfalls, such as the negative impact it has on the water sources.

Because the industry is so beneficial to the economy, and water is a scarce natural resource that everyone needs, mining industries need to find effective and sustainable ways to manage water. Mine owners need to find ways to ensure that they are abiding by the rules and regulations that are put in place to protect the environment.

To have sustainable water management in mining, industries need to do the following;

Install wastewater treatment plants

Mines need water to run successfully; therefore, recycling and reusing water is one of the most effective ways of sustaining water. Mines use a substantial amount of water – according to Water Wise, mines use 10.5% of the water in South Africa. Therefore, there must be water treatment for those large volumes of water. Most mines are inland, and they need to find processes which will ensure the water goes back into the environment without causing further harm. Effective treatment of decanting water can be used by installing a raw water treatment that will turn wastewater into potable water. This will ensure that mines have a clean water flow that they can be reused in the environment.


Reuse water by optimising technology

Technology has helped the industry by creating faster and smarter industrial processes. For example, the mining industry has three water technologies that can ensure a lower impact on water supply. The three water technologies are:

  • Water monitoring: has three specific areas that you need to keep track of, the water balance, water utilisation and water standards. The data on these areas will give you a clear picture of water utilisation in the mining water supply chain. And the data can examine other data such as evaporation dates, snow melting, rain, etc.
  • Stormwater management: stormwater is a big issue in the mining industry. This is because stormwater is one of the main reasons for contaminated discharge in mine areas. Management of stormwater can help with several mining operations such as operating schedules, production impacts and safety.
  • Data management: truth is, the need for sustainable water management is high. This is why mine owners need to have efficient employees that will assist in managing data that will generate the water reports for regulation terms.


Reusing and water reclamation

All mines need to show how effective they are with reusing water and reclamation. In order for this to be done, you will need to have a Water Reuse and Reclamation plan. When creating this plan, mine owners need to consider the balance between water and salt. For this to be done, there needs to be a record of the mines data since it’s the first operation.

This data will be helpful when needing to maintain and have a record of the water balance of the mines lifetime. Not only will this data keep a record of the mines water balance, but it will help keep you knowledgeable of the condition of the mines flowmeters.


An accurate balance of water and salt

Every mine owner understands the importance of balance between water and salt. The balance plays a huge role in water management and can help in the decision-making process. But, that isn’t the only advantage water and salt balance can offer you, it can:

  • Conduct different water audits for various water supplies.
  • Establish where water is being misused or any leakage.
  • Establish water that is polluted or contaminated.


Final thoughts

Water is a key part of any mining operation. Therefore, mine owners must understand the need to preserve and protect the water supply. If not taken care of, then this will cause an immediate risk to your business, because no water means no business. But luckily with the rise of technology, there are many ways mines can save, recycle or reuse water.

Water treatment systems are available to ensure you can continue with your day to day processes while also not jeopardising the quality of water. Although water management and water treatment plants might seem expensive, they are a cost-effective alternative in the long run that will help your business and surrounding communities. Helping you have peace of mind, knowing that your mining processes don’t impact the environment negatively.

water management - mining