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Dewatering technology pays for itself in two years

Minimising stress on scarce water resources is becoming a major issue for resource developments in Australia - and for every country that has limited access to resources.
Technology represented in Australia by CST Wastewater solutions was recently involved in a project involving technology selection, design and turnkey installation of a dewatering plant at Anglo Platinum’s Modikwa Mine.
The project by CST Wastewater Solutions’ partner Talbot & Talbot (Pty) Ltd allowed for the effective recovery of water and platinum group metals.
“This plant has allowed the mine to minimise the stress placed on the mining region’s extremely limited water supply by managing its water resources more efficiently,” said CST Wastewater technology managing director Mike Bambridge. “The success of this project, its positive impact on the mines’ bottom line, including the reduction in the mine’s environmental footprint, illustrates the prospects for use by other mines in similar situations.”
The area involved in the project, the mineral-rich Bushveld Complex region is incredibly arid and the thirsty business of mining therefore has a variety of negative impacts on mines’ financial implications.
From a social perspective, there is growing awareness and disapproval of mines’ role in depleting the region’s already scarce water supply, including criticism from the Kruger National Park and towns situated around the Bushveld Complex. From an environmental perspective, the mines are placing heavy pressure on a natural resource. From a financial perspective, extremely high expenditure costs are being tied up in the extraction of water from the Olifants River, including transportation and handling costs.  Talbot & Talbot’s mine slurry dewatering plants recently installed and being operated at the Modikwa Mine address these concerns. The plants are situated on both the north and south shafts of the mine, where they are operated independently by the Talbot & Talbot Plant Operations Division. The plant’s process begins with the mine’s slurry (approximately 220,000 t/month) entering two high-rate clarifiers. The clarifiers separate the slurry into dewatered sludge and clarified water, which are then directed to a filter press and storage tank respectively.
The filter press further dewaters the sludge, producing a dry filter cake with a moisture content of 22 per cent. This cake allows for the effective removal and recovery of platinum metals. The clarified water is simultaneously stored in a storage tank awaiting re-use in the mine’s mining operations, with 98 per cent of the process water being recovered. The concentrators receive a steady flow of filter cake.
“Essentially, the plant allows the mine to reduce its production costs by recycling its water, and providing the mine with the option to process already mined ore, achieving platinum recovery of approximately 4g/t of filter cake. Sustainable water recovery and re-use allows for the reduction in excessive transport and handling costs required to obtain water, as well as the costs involved in the disposal of the slurry to landfill sites,” said Bambridge.
In addition, the plant allows the mine to effectively manage the dewatered slurry, resulting in the easy integration and flow of materials through the concentrators. Overall, the mine is able to improve its environmental footprint, social impact and financial performance, whilst contributing to the mine’s sustainability and continuous improvement.
“Costs involved in implementing a mine water management project are minimal in comparison to the benefits received. The project construction period was eight months but the contract in real terms spans a five-year period in that the project was provided on a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer basis. The capital outlay was recovered in approximately two years, with operation expenses being the only on-going costs,” said Bambridge.
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