South Africa has a mining history that started at the end of the 19th Century and has played a substantial role in the international mining sector. The density of sulphidic ore deposits in a few noteworthy catchments, the semi-arid southern African climate, long history of min-ing as well as acid and neutral rock drainage (ARD and NRD) are the main strategic environmental issues that the mining industry in South Africa is currently facing. In addition, South Africa is currently experiencing the flooding of the world’s most extensive gold mining area, the Witwatersrand Basin, and delegates of ICARD 2018 will get to appreciate this issue first hand. South African mining companies, consultants, regulators and mines therefore offer unique mine drainage, water management as well as water treatment understanding and experiences.
South Africa offers first-world infrastructure, telecommunications and transport and is accessible by direct flight from all major continents. South Africa is furthermore seen as the gateway into Africa (African Union Parliament is housed there) and plays a leading role amongst the Southern Africa Development Economic Community (SADEC) countries, including sustainable development of mineral resources. In addition, South Africa is well known for its many world-class tourist attractions and is generally regarded as a safe and affordable tourist destination.
Despite the fact that Africa is a leading mining continent and South Africa a leading mining country with unique ARD management expertise, it has never hosted an ICARD event, although South Africa failed in its bid for ICARD 9 in 2009. Of the 10 ICARDs held to date, two have been in Scandinavia (ICARD 1 and 8), three have been in Canada (ICARD 2, 4 and 9), three have been in the USA (ICARD 3, 5 and 7), one has been in Australia (ICARD 6) and one in Chile (ICARD 10). Given the international prominence of South Africa in mining, and in line with the aims of INAP to enhance global participation, the opportunity to rectify this situation now exists. As this bid document will show, hosting an African ICARD will be mutually beneficial insofar as it will expose African mining companies, researchers and regulators to international practices presented at ICARD while simultaneously presenting ICARD delegates the many exciting and novel mine water developments and practices that exist in South Africa.
Exposing the international community to the current and historical ARD- and NRD-related research conducted in South Africa will help INAP to better define knowledge gaps for potential research. It will also ensure further collaboration between South African research organisations and INAP’s Global Alliance Partner’s initiatives. With this involvement in mind, South Africa provides an excellent opportunity for the development of innovative technologies to prevent, manage and treat mine drainage in a developing world. South Africa is unique in its application of sustainable development principles and practices, further providing delegates with an opportunity to be exposed to the specific challenges faced by mining in a developing country.
WISA and its various Technical Divisions, as well as IMWA, regularly and flawlessly organise and host international conferences. Some of these events are substantially larger than an average ICARD conference, demonstrating the availability of first world infrastructure and the ability to organise and host an event of this magnitude. Additionally, South Africa also offers a number of unique and important advantages as an ICARD venue that are set out later in this bid document.
Large parts of South Africa are water-stressed and, owing to historical economic development having been driven by the discovery and mining of minerals, followed by related industrial development, development in South Africa has not always followed the availability of water. The country’s largest city, Johannesburg, developed along the outcrop of the gold-bearing rocks of the Witwatersrand, far from any major water source. Surface water is the major water source for much of the country and water is managed on the basis of water management areas, based on surface water catchment areas. As more and more water is allocated to users and the environment, mining is seen increasingly as a user and polluter of water. Availability of water is critical for new mining projects, its scarcity in some instances preventing the development of new mining areas. The impact of mining on water, both as a user of a scarce resource and a polluter, is attracting ever greater attention in South Africa, and faces growing challenges in the future.
In meeting these challenges, the South African water and mining sectors have taken a number of innovative approaches. The country is currently starting to implement the Waste Discharge Charge System. This aims to internalise costs associated with waste and to encourage the reduction in waste and the minimisation of detrimental impacts on water resources.
In meeting these challenges, South Africa has seen great advances in the treatment of mining impacted water, with a number of new technologies having been locally developed and implemented. The eMalahleni Water Treatment Plant in Mpumalanga Province is one of these. Here, coal mining companies are collaborating to treat acid mine drainage to potable quality using reverse osmosis. The water is then used to supplement the local municipal water supply. In the Witwatersrand, the closure of underground mines has led to the flooding of mines with the risk of discharge to surface streams. Here, large pump-and-treat schemes are being implemented with the ultimate aim of producing potable water to supplement local supply and reduce the impact on downstream surface water resources. In parallel with the developments around treatment, the inherent unsustainability of treatment
in perpetuity is recognised. Efforts are under way to prevent the ingress of clean surface water into mines, reducing the volume of water which will eventually require treatment. An example is the canalisation of surface streams which traverse historical near-surface undermined areas in Johannesburg.