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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: January 19th 2005


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:: New Mine-water Treatment Process Launched

A South African-developed solution to treat acid mine water drainage was yesterday launched by the East Rand Water Care Company (Erwat) and Petrex's Grootvlei Proprietary Mines, and will be used to treat extraneous water pumped by the gold-mine in the Blesbokspruit area, near Springs, in eastern Gauteng.

Hailed as the first of its kind, the Rhodes BioSURE Process is the most cost-effective biological treatment option currently known in the world, and is aimed at reducing sulphates in acid-rich mine water without the external addition of chemicals.

Launched by Professor Dennis Goldberg, special adviser to Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, the process was developed by Rhodes University's environmental biology group over a period of eight years, with the support of the Water Research Commission, Erwat and BioPAD.

The Rhodes BioSURE Process uses primary sewage sludge, a by-product of Erwat, instead of expensive carbon and electron donor sources. As a widely available waste organic source, sewage sludge (which carries its own disposal costs), is thus used as the electron donor source for sulphate reduction, creating sustainability advantages for the codisposal treatment process.

Together, the two waste products ensure improved water quality before being discharged into the Blesbokspruit Ramsar site. At the same time, safe and stable biosolids are produced.

According to Petrex MD Martin Schermers, the Rhodes BioSURE Process is a step towards treating the total volume of water discharged and to restoring the ecological character of the river, in order to eventually remove the Blesbokspruit wetland from the Montreux Record.

In terms of Article 3.2 of the Ramsar Convention, the Blesbokspruit Ramsar site was placed on the Montreux Record in 1996, since the ecological character of this wetland was threatened as a result of pollution from extraneous mine water.

Pat Twala, MD of ERWAT, said the process is significantly cheaper than any other alternative, reducing costs from about R5/kl to about R1/kl.

The technology has been fully developed and a demonstration plant is currently operational, with results indicating performance comparable to the best alternative technology.

ERWAT provides bulk wastewater conveyance and a technologically-advanced and efficient wastewater treatment service for a host of industries, as well as more than 3,5 million people who have access to sanitation services.

"The BioSURE Process is an innovative and cost-effective tool to improve the quality of mine water not just in South Africa, but all over the world. Grootvlei mine is proud to be part of pioneering a sustainable locally-developed solution for mine-water treatment, which proved to be problematic in the past.

"The implementation of sustainable mine-water treatment projects is the real challenge in the long term," Schermers said.




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