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SAIMM News

  • We are excited to announce that the SAIMM Online Journal system is now live!

    saimm journal sept2017You can now submit manuscripts and peer reviews online. The OJS assists you with every step of the refereed publishing process, from submission through to online publication. Authors can also check the status of their papers online and referees will receive automated reminders for their reviews.
    We request you to register as an Author and/or Referee on the system.  To access the website please follow the link: http://saimmjournal.co.za/

     

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  • The INTPART Metal Production Project

    INTPARTThe INTPART Metal Production Project aims at strengthening ties and growing networks internationally through joint research and education projects. The three-year project is hosted by the Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI) and funded by the Norwegian Research Council (NRC) and NTNU. The participating institutions are NTNU and SINTEF in Norway, and MINTEK and the University of North-West (NWU) in South Africa. The two focus areas of the project are fundamental reaction mechanisms for reduction processes and the use of carbon materials in metal production.

    The project resulted from the two SAIMM Schools on Manganese Ferroalloy Production hosted in 2012 and 2016.

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  • WIM UJ Young Women in Mining Conference

    ypc news sept172

    On the 11th of August 2017 WIM UJ held its first Young Women in Mining Conference at the University of Johannesburg.

    The SAIMM YPC attended the event in support of Young Women In Mining which aims at empowering the next generation of young women in the Industry.

    Women in Mining UJ is currently the only female mining structure in the four South African mining schools.

    WIM UJ has initiated the first annual young women in mining workshop in 2016 which was held by the Department of Mineral Resources and the Mine Health and Safety Council of South Africa, working in line with the mission and vision of WIMSA.

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From the President's Corner

  • The last 100 days in the office of the SAIMM Presidency

    When presidents or leaders are elected, it is often customary to expect them to deliver a speech when they attain their first 100 days in office. Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated on 20 January 2009 as the 44th President of the United States, and gave a speech on his first 100 days in office on 29 April 2009. As is

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  • The modern mining professional – a mining CEOʼs perspective

    I had the opportunity of attending the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Mine Managers of South Africa (AMMSA) on 31 March 2017. Mr Steve Phiri, the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) delivered the keynote address, which he titled ‘Towards a lasting legacy: the modern mine manager’. This insightful address resonated with my President’s Corner in

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  • Mine of the Future — A mining CEOʼs perspective

    The School of Mining Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand held its 120th anniversary celebration on 23 March 2017. The keynote speaker at this momentous occasion was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gold Fields Limited, Mr Nick Holland. He spoke passionately about his vision on the Mine of the Future and indicated how Gold Fields was positioning itself

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  • Advancing international collaboration through the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance (GMPA)

    When Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was delivering his mid-term budget speech in 2016, he made reference to the following Pedi quote which is relevant to one of SAIMM’s strategic initiatives: ‘Ditau tsahloka seboka di shitwa ke nare e hlotsa’ (translated into English as ‘Lions that fail to work as a team will struggle to bring down even a limping buffalo’).

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Jobs

From the Journal Comments

  • Hydrometallurgy Conference 2016

    ʻSustainable Hydrometallurgical Extraction of Metalsʼ This edition of the Journal features papers that were presented at the Hydrometallurgy Conference, which was held from 31 July to 3 August 2016. The theme of the conference was ‘Sustainable Hydrometallurgical Extraction of Metals’ and it was attended by 150 delegates from around the world. The conference was organized in collaboration with the Western

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  • We have a Problem?

    I start my Journal Comment with the iconic phrase: ‘Houston, we have a problem’. Those with good memories might just recall that these were the words spoken by astronaut Jack Swigert during the aborted Apollo 13 moon mission, when he reported to ground control an undervoltage on the capsule bus. At least that’s what I recall he said. Something in

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What price water?

‘The biggest waste of water in the country by far You spend half a pint and flush two gallons’ Attr. Prince Philip—Duke of Edinburgh

I am writing this comment at the end of the World Water Week but it might appear only in a later issue appropriate to this topic. I had the privilege of attending the Mine Water Symposium arranged by the Geological Society of South Africa in mid-March. It was an excellent presentation dealing predominately with the underground water from the gold mines on the Witwatersrand and the coalmines around Witbank and Middelburg.

The formation of acid mine drainage (AMD), its accumulation underground, and the environmental problem it gives rise to when pumped or when seeping to the surface, were discussed in some detail. Some excellent maps were presented of the central, western and southern Witwatersrand mining areas and those of the northern and southern coal areas. These areas span the continental divide and the AMD can drain into the Vaal catchment’s area, ultimately ending in the Vaal River leading to the Atlantic.

However, the area around Krugersdorp can drain into the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, now a Heritage Site, and into the Sterkfontein Caves with disastrous consequences. From the Northern coalfields, the polluted water could flow into the Olifants River and via the KNP into Moçambique and the Indian Ocean. From the southern section, the water flows through Mpumalanga past the KNP and through Moçambique into the Indian Ocean. The age old solution to the problem of AMD was to add lime to precipitate the toxic metals and dump the sludge on a slimes dam.

However, the treated effluent then contains quantities of calcium and magnesium sulphates with smaller quantities of sodium chloride which, although not toxic, represent a build-up of the total dissolved solids (tds,) which in the streams of the Vaal catchment area increase to an unacceptable level in the feed water to the domestic supply to Gauteng. Large quantities of the pristine Lesotho water then have to be used to dilute these impurities and flush them from the barrage area to flow down into the Atlantic.

There are many other problems such as the slimes dams leaking toxic metals into the rivers and there have been major campaigns to find a universal solution. Geohydrologists with the operating mines have been hard at work to reduce the quantities of AMD involved, with considerable success. It has been demonstrated that the gypsiferous effluents can be used for irrigation and indeed it is known that many soils can benefit from the addition of sulphates, but only time will tell whether this is a sustainable solution. At the symposium, some very relevant data was provided and plans for a cooperative effort were described. Amcoal, for example, had run a pilot plant using reverse osmosis to produce domestic quality water, which in due course will be made available to the Witbank municipality at considerable cost to these coalmines.

A concentrated brine and gypsum slurry still has to be disposed of elsewhere. Grootvlei mine has spent considerable amounts to treat 10 Ml/day of their AMD using the BioSure process, a patented biological reduction of sulphate to sulphides using sewage sludge as the organic food for the micro-organisms. However, a mixture of organic solids from the sewage mixed with calcium and magnesium sulphides has to be disposed of on a waste dump.

The symposium which, as a supplement to the Water Week, pointed to the urgent need to look at the water resources of Southern Africa on a holistic basis. All the stakeholders are very conscious of the need for positive action to make use of this AMD to provide sustainable solutions in line with recent thinking on future targets and challenges regarding water supplies. These are:  The undertaking by Government to supply as a constitutional right all the population with domestic water.  The critically urgent requirement to expand electric power production dramatically and in the next decade this means coal-fired stations with increased demand for cooling water.  

Increasing demands from our neighbours who are dependent on flow of adequate water from the rivers into their territories from sources in South Africa.  The use of water in agricultural irrigation is unquestionably another national priority in terms of development of rural areas and in job creation.  The announced intention of the production of bio fuels, which implies an increase in agriculture and demand for water.  There are many who believe that availability of water is a limiting factor in achieving the targets for economic development. The question of how we solve these problems will be debated by many experts. It is my conviction that an unrecognized top priority in water R&D is the conversion of sewage effluent into quality agricultural water for high efficiency small lot farming.

There are many worthwhile avenues to explore. Some aspects I believe relevant to the mining industry might be of interest. To explain them I propose water usage must be assigned a ‘net potential added value, (PAV). And the following fundamentals must apply:  No water is to be uselessly discarded into the ocean or needlessly evaporated if it has the potential of an alternative use with a positive PAV. This does not mean, for example, that the use of water to provide evaporative cooling for power stations is banned as having a zero PAV. It can be assigned a positive PAV, since the alternative is to produce more high purity boiler feed water at a cost or maybe to install an energy consuming refrigeration cooling unit.

The cost of each of these options can easily be evaluated and the lowest of these can be translated into a PAV and assigned a priority rating.  There must be a major effort devoted to assessing our water resources and alternative supplies and costs. The hydrogeologist and climatologist must play a dominant role. For example, there are countless dolomite caverns filled with water and those adjacent to mines are emptied by pumping (a negative PAV) and thrown away. They may or may not be refilled by flood water at high rainfall periods and they may have a positive PAV.  Since every drop of water in SA belongs to the state by law, it is not unreasonable for the state to assign a priority level on the basis of PAVs for any proposed usage.

These over-simplified ground rules imply a large amount of investigation and calculation and a high level of wisdom in strategic planning. But I do believe some unexpected conclusions may be forthcoming. An example may illustrate the concept more clearly. Assume a farmer can grow 3 t/ha of maize worth R3 000 with 360 mm rainfall over 6 months. Assume that with an additional 180 mm centre-pivot irrigation, i.e. 1800 m3 he can grow 6.6 t/ha. The PAV for this irrigation is R2/m3.

This is about the same as for domestic usage! It also suggests that this figure is what one could afford to pay to treat waste domestic effluent (zero PAV) to provide irrigation water. If drip irrigation were to be used at six times the water efficiency of centre pivot systems, a PAV of R12/m3 is indicated. Interestingly, the farming company Tavland using dolomitic water pumped from Western Areas Mine were achieving higher PAV values using drip irrigation on land within the mine property. There are, I believe, many similar opportunities to be explored and particularly in relation to long-term sustainability.  R.E. Robinson May 2006