Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: Acid mine water, a horrible legacy of a century of mining, is now being used to recover gold off old mine dumps.
Creamer: These mine dumps require a lot of water when they process and there is pumping and processing and the water we want to avoid using is the potable drinking water. So, now what has happened is that they managed to start using acid mine drainage (AMD), that is DRDGold listing on the Stock Exchange in New York and the main participants in getting rid of our dumps around here and getting the gold out of it.
They have been using sewage water that they have been getting from the East Rand Water Care Centre. That comes in at about 8 mega liters a day, but now they have augmented it with another 8 mega liters a day of AMD. They can't use too much of this AMD as it tends to gum up the network. But, it shows you that there is good cooperation between the government, because the authority for this water the TCTA, Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority actually took over some of the sites of DRDGold in Germiston where they had the old ERPM shaft. You see there a massive big water plant where they treat that AMD.
That has enabled DRDGold to actually use it because it has to be treated to some extent. You can’t just use AMD as it is, so having been treated that gives them the ability to then cut down on the potable Rand Water and use the bad water in this processing arrangement. We know that much more should be done with AMD. We have seen some of the private sector companies, Trailblazer for one out at Krugersdrop, showed that they are prepared to turn this into good water at no cost. All they want is the potassium nitrate out of it and the ammonium sulphate, because those are valuable fertiliser materials. We see that the Department of Water Affairs has not moved on this.
They are still talking about spending a lot of money on a new plant, which creates gypsum. That is not such a bright idea. So, we also need to look at the Karoo, because some of that technology that has been developed now can take some of that brackish water and turn it into agricultural usable water. We know how short we are of water.
This has just awakened the appetite again for making sure that you can turn water that is unusable and put it in the usable space both in mining and in agriculture. From that mining we have got about 137 000 ounces of gold that they took off the mine dumps and put it into the market. They are coming under pressure from various NGOs around the issue of dust, but they also having to deal with that.
Kamwendo: Hugely expensive mine dump vegetation is being burnt by vandals, sparking fears to dust storms across the Golden City.
Creamer: Since the forties these dumps have been vegetated, but there was a guide line, which said don’t bring the communities close to these, have a buffer zone and don’t come closer than a certain distance. Of course, that has been exceeded now, nobody actually worries about a buffer zone between these dumps and communities. So, the communities are right up on what has been vegetated.
They then realised that greater effort needs to be put in to the vegetation and they need to be far more dense. That, of course, also increase the cost and one place where you cannot use AMD is on the vegetation. You have got to use potable water, which is expensive. What has happened is DRDGold says for some reason people want to burn this vegetation down. You can see that they have spent hundreds of thousands of rands per hectare on the slopes of these slimes dams and on the tops. All the tops are done and most of the slopes are done.
But what is happening now is that for some reason these are just being burnt down, no one really knows why, there doesn’t even have to be a sinister reason, people just seem to have fun burning this pasture down, which is then giving rise to this whole fear of more dust. The industry has already had a lot of complaints from the Bench Marks Foundation. They put a report saying people are still getting sick from this dust. What DRD has been trying to say to them is that they have been halving the dust factor and they got it down to a very low level.
They not only vegetate these dumps but they also remove them and they have removed two completely in the Riverlea area so that should help the situation. There seems to be a breakdown in communication between the NGOs and the non-government organisations like Bench Marks and DRDGold. DRDGold has been pleading with them to come forward and work on this together, so that with the community and NGOs they can solve this problem. At the moment, it is only DRDGold that is spending any money on rehabilitating these dumps and removing the dumps. In fact, they have spent more over the last ten years then they have given to their shareholders in dividends.
So, it is a considerable amount of money and if the burning of this vegetation does take place, it sets vegetation back incredibly, because they then have to start from scratch again. Normally, if you have got this vegetation going for about three years it is in a far more secure and stable position, but if you start burning it early, then there is major trouble.
Kamwendo: Black-controlled Royal Bafokeng Platinum is buying platinum assets from broke foreign investors.
Creamer: That is right, you can see in the platinum space there are a lot of broke companies because the price has been so badly knocked. Now we see that that the Canada-listed Platinum Group Metals have had to look at their mine, which is very close to the Royal Bafokeng project, the Styledrift project in Rustenburg and this week they announced a deal with Royal Bafokeng Platinum that they can start disposing of this Maseve mine to the Royal Bafokeng Platinum company and take the money and satisfy and pay off their debts.
The situation there is entering a loss. This has given an opportunity for Royal Bafokeng Platinum to actually have a concentrator plant immediately. They can make use of a concentrator plant, which will save them quite a lot of money. It also possibly gives them a chance to resuscitate a closed south shaft.
The Canadian company will move to Waterberg where they have also got a very big project. They will put more effort in to that and not put anymore interest into Maseve and save them a lot of funding.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.