Africa Mining: South Africa water shortage an emerging challenge for mines

With water a critical resource across all mining and quarrying developments and operations, water scarcity is adding to the challenges faced by South African miners.

Water management is steadily emerging as the pre-eminent sustainability issue within the global energy and mining resource industries, as the effects of climate change and extreme weather changes that affect rainfall patterns become more apparent, says Verder Pumps South Africa MD Darryl Macdougall.

“Mining companies are faced with numerous civil and environmental pressures and need to proactively review the impact that their upstream and downstream operations are having on the availability and quality of this nonrenewable resource,” he explains.

“This includes having a deeper understanding of where the mine gets its water from, how it disposes or recycles it, what the water is being used for, potential losses or gains and the related risks and opportunities – at both corporate and individual operation site level.”

This means that mines now need to start implementing innovative solutions that will allow the reduction of an operation’s reliance on and use of water.

While the mining sector remains a key economic contributor to the South African economy, it is also one of the toughest industrialised working environments, with water scarcity compounding the challenge to maximise yield for profitability and balance costs against the return on investments.

“One operational area that stands to benefit significantly from innovations that can assist with dewatering is mineral processing,” he says.

Macdougall cites the example of the on-site or nearby development of mineral processing plants, without a nearby smelter for the beneficiation of the product afterwards, which adds an extra transport expense.

“Currently, few traditional centrifugal pumps on the market are able to transfer slurry at the high specific gravities required to save water – those that can will certainly experience increased wear rates,” he says.

However, Macdougall believes that by adopting peristaltic pump technology, the dewatering of the product and water conservation will be improved and will contribute to higher production capacity and a reduction in maintenance and operating costs.

“Such thickener transfer pump solutions are designed to pump slurry at a higher specific gravity at a steady flow rate, which will significantly reduce the amount of water-to-product ratio, thereby increasing the tonnage of product being transported,” he adds.

Inferior solutions can also intensify the already complex technical obstacles of implementing pumping solutions for specific mining applications.source:miningweekly

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