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MEI Online: Reagents: Latest News: December 4th 2007


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:: Mintek’s Cyanide Laboratory Receives ISO Accreditation

Mintek's Cyanide Services laboratory has been certified by the South African National Accreditation Services (SANAS), as meeting the requirements of ISO 17025 for Testing and Calibration Laboratories.

The specific scope of the certification is for water-quality evaluation by determination of total cyanide and weak acid dissociable (WAD) cyanide, using continuous flow analysis (SANAS/ISO 14403), for process and environmental samples.

"As environmental criteria and process controls in the gold industry have become more sophisticated, the need for data provided by independently certified laboratories has increased significantly", said Dr Roger Paul, Mintek's General Manager of Technology. "This certification assures customers that the results from our laboratory are comparable with those from other certified facilities world-wide."

The International Cyanide Code specifies a maximum of 50 parts per million (ppm) WAD cyanide in open waters between the decant pond and plant. In effluents, which are intentionally discharged to the open environment, the WAD content must not exceed 0.5 ppm, irrespective of later dilution factors. "Signatories to the Code are required to monitor these levels on an ongoing basis", said Peter Lotz, head of Mintek's Cyanide Centre. "Sound cyanide management is rapidly becoming a requirement on the part of project financing institutions, and peer pressure on existing operations is expected to intensify. Plant management decisions need to be based on reliable data, and in this regard there is a growing demand for impartial verification of laboratory data. Furthermore, in the case of an accidental release or spillage, analyses need to be carried out by an independent facility."

Mintek has been involved in cyanide-related research and routine work for more than 25 years, and has built a solid foundation in soil, solution, and gas-phase analysis and mass-balancing of cyanide. The Cyanide Centre is an industry-focused hub that evolved during a phase of intensive research into the fate of cyanide, which coincided with the early stages of formation of the Cyanide Code seven years ago. The Centre aims to:

  • assist in minimising risks associated with the use of cyanide;
  • increase general knowledge on all issues around cyanide, be they related to processing, health and safety, or environmental issues; and,
  • reduce the perceived or existing gap between legislative requirements and actual cyanide levels being attained by providing suitable management tools.

Services provided to the industry (mainly gold mining, but also other sectors with an interest in cyanide) include gold leaching testwork and optimisation, cyanide analysis and speciation, mass balancing across a leach process or entire operation, and cyanide destruction tests.

Future services planned include sulphur speciation (linked to cyanide reactions), and arsenic, uranium, mercury, and chromium chemistry and analysis, all with a specific focus on the mining and metallurgical environments.

"The importance of sample integrity and data management is very often seriously underestimated and hence neglected", said Lotz. "Mintek can assist with the establishment of sound sampling plans, sample collection and custody, and the maintenance of long-term databases. We can also provide data with respect to the different cyanide management codes, water quality guidelines, soil criteria, and other national and international health and safety or environmental regulations."

Mintek was involved in the drawing up of both the South African and the international (International Cyanide Management Institute) codes, and takes part in full compliance audits or "gap" audits at sites in Africa's major gold-producing regions on a regular basis. Mintek takes the role of technical Expert Auditor in these exercises, and is working towards the qualification for accreditation as Lead Auditor.

Mintek also holds certifications for ISO 9001 (quality management system), ISO 14001 (environmental management system), and OHSAS 18001 (occupational health and safety management, as well as an ISO 17025 certification (testing and calibration laboratory) for its Analytical Services division.




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