AECI says mining can save billions of litres of water for South Africans

Inspired by UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, AECI Water says it is focused on taking the mining industry off the potable grid. This directly links to this year’s Mining Indaba theme of ‘Stability, Security and Supply.’

“2.2 billion litres of water are being saved by two mines and we’re just getting started,” says Dean Mulqueeny, the AECI Executive responsible for AECI Water. “There are approximately 200 mines in South Africa. If every mine saved one billion litres of water, 200 billion litres of water will be saved. This is enough to fill 88,000 Olympic-size swimming pools or supply 2.5 million South Africans with 237 litres of water a day for a year.”

At a platinum mine in North West, AECI Water is treating and reusing fissure water through desalination processes. At a deep-level gold mine in the North West, they’re treating and reusing process water through proprietary chemical technology. This treated process water is being used in high temperature cooling systems while safeguarding the asset integrity. A range of similar work is happening in Africa and will be publicised in due course.

According to the CSIR, mining consumes between 2% and 5% of South Africa’s available water. “There’s always water on mines,” explains Mulqueeny. “Mines are either removing water or using water to reduce dust, move slurry or tailings, or control fires. Pumps and wells are commonplace. Since mines know how to work with water, they can apply new water management principles and technologies more readily and reap the benefits more quickly.”

These can include recycling and re-using water; engineering closed loop systems; finding alternative sources of sustainable water supply; improving discharged water quality; maximising the use of abundant and legacy water sources; plus applying appropriate water qualities for specific applications that are fit-for-purpose – not using potable for everything.

AECI Water says it is the leading provider of process and water treatment chemicals, equipment and services to the mining and minerals processing industry in Africa. “The business develops integrated solutions for asset integrity, continuous improvement, process efficiency, product quality, reduced risk and regulatory compliance with a strong focus on minimising water usage and waste while achieving Zero Harm.”

The business can also help mines give back to the community by repurposing groundwater for agricultural purposes or treating it to potable specifications for social responsibility programmes.

AECI Water technologies on display at Mining Indaba this week are:

  • ‘Smart’ ultrafiltration for process water treatment and recovery (improves performance of reverse osmosis (RO) units, limits investment and operating costs, and reduces energy and water consumption due to low backwashing)
  • Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR) pilot plant for activated sludge process intensification and denitrification (mitigates greenhouse gases and reduces energy consumption)
  • Thickener management
  • Solidification of aqueous waste
  • Decentralised surface and borehole water treatment skids