Mining & Water Quality

According to Young, “we can pay now or pay later, and history has shown us that, especially with mining, clean up is always more expensive than prevention”

Luckily good mining companies understand this concept, and ensure that the best  water pollution prevention strategies are employed in cases where the risks can be managed. UIS Sediba Laboratory can help these mines with the ongoing monitoring of water quality, in order to detect water pollution quickly. Typical tests include:

  • pH
  • Electrical Conductivity
  • TDS
  • Suspended Matter
  • Alkalinity
  • Anions (Cl, F, NO2, NO3, SO4, PO4)
  • Metals

SANS 241 Drinking Water Analysis:

The SANS 241 drinking water standard includes a list of determinants which needs to be measured to compare the results against the determinant’s corresponding limits (SANS 241 standard) to ensure that the quality of the water is suitable for human consumption. UIS Sediba Laboratory offers the SANS 241 analysis to all clients including municipalities and private companies or individuals. The determinants include:

  • Microbiological determinants (Bacteriological and Protozoan)
  • Physical and Aesthetic determinants (Turbidity, Colour, etc.)
  • Chemical determinants (organic and inorganic analysis)

Interesting Facts About South African Water Resources

South Africa is one of only 12 countries where tap water is safe to drink. Its tap water is rated the third best worldwide.

The Tugela Falls in KwaZulu Natal, at 948m (3110ft), is the second highest waterfall in the world.

The Boesmansgat is renowned as the second deepest sinkhole (about 299 metres) and the largest of its kind in the world. Many attempts have been made at world records in cave-diving in this exceptional sinkhole.

The St. Lucia estuarine system, in Kwazulu Natal, is the largest estuarine system in Africa.

Mpumalanga province is home to the BlyderiverCanyon, the third largest canyon in the world – and the largest green one. The Grand Canyon in the U.S. is the biggest, and the FishRiverCanyon in Namibia the second, but both are very dry.

Interesting Facts About South African Mining

South African mines are deeper than any other country in the world, up to depths of 2.5 miles at the Western Deep Levels Mine.

South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of gold, platinum, Chromium, vanadium, manganese and alumino-silicates. It also produces nearly 40% of the world’s chrome and vermiculite.

The world’s two largest platinum mines are located near Rustenburg.

The Rand Refinery is the largest refinery of gold in the world.

Samancor Limited is the world’s largest producer by sales of manganese and chrome products.

South Africa has the fourth largest coal reserves in the world. Its coal industry ranks sixth in the world in terms of output of hard coal and third in terms of seaborne international coal trade.

The Concern

As water is essential to life on our planet, there is growing public concern about the impact of mining water on the condition of fresh water in South Africa. Mining affects fresh water through heavy use of water in processing of ore, and through water pollution from discharged mine effluent and seepage from tailings and waste rock impoundments.  Mining by its nature consumes, diverts and can seriously pollute water resources.

Acid Mine Drainage

Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) and Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) are both natural processes whereby sulphuric acid is produced when sulphides in rocks are exposed to air and water. The acid is then carried off the mine site by rainwater or surface drainage and deposited into nearby streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater there by causing water pollution. AMD severely degrades water quality, and can kill aquatic life and make water virtually unusable.

Heavy Metal Contamination & Leaching

Heavy metal water pollution is caused when metals like arsenic, cobalt, copper, cadmium, lead, silver and zinc contained in excavated rock or exposed in an underground mine come in contact with water. Metals are leached out and carried downstream as water washes over the rock surface. Although metals can become mobile in neutral pH conditions, leaching is particularly accelerated in the low pH conditions such as are created by Acid Mine Drainage.

Processing Chemicals Pollution

This kind of pollution occurs when chemical agents (such as cyanide or sulphuric acid used by mining companies to separate the target mineral from the ore) spill, leak, or leach from the mine site into nearby water bodies. These chemicals can be highly toxic to humans and wildlife.

Erosion and Sedimentation

Mineral development disturbs soil and rock in the course of constructing and maintaining roads, open pits, and waste impoundments. In the absence of adequate prevention and control strategies, erosion of the exposed earth may carry substantial amounts of sediment into streams, rivers and lakes. Excessive sediment can clog riverbeds and smother watershed vegetation, wildlife habitat and aquatic organisms.