South AfricaExxaro Resources has invested in a R250 million water treatment plant at the Matla coal mine in Mpumalanga.

The water treatment plant is set to reduce the safety risk posed by large quantities of water that have filled mined-out underground cavities while simultaneously benefiting the environment and local water users.

The facility, which will treat 10 Ml/d, forms part of Exxaro’s holistic group-wide water management strategy geared to entrench responsible and sustainable water management.

Construction of the Matla water treatment plant created 200 temporary jobs and there are 14 permanent jobs created to operate the facility

As part of its water management strategy Exxaro, one of the largest South African-based diversified resources groups, manages its water stewardship through reduction, reuse and recycling of water, proactively responding to water-related risks, minimising impacts and ensuring operations use water efficiently and in the best interests of the company as well as all other users and the environment.

The Matla underground mining operations experience significant water ingress into the workings from surface, leading to flooding risks to the safety of workers and to the surrounding environment which could be impacted by the contaminated water should this water be released back to the surface without prior treatment.

Following engagement with the departments of Water and Sanitation, Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources, Exxaro mapped out a sustainable solution to the underground water which is centred on a state-of-the-art water treatment plant.

The treatment entails underground water being pumped to the surface where it undergoes comprehensive treatment using innovative filtration processes to remove contaminants and purify the water. The water treatment plant will treat 10 mega litres per day and of this some 6.5 Ml will be discharged to the Olifants River and the remainder will be used in the Matla operations or for potable water needs at the mine.

Expected immediate benefits are that by actively managing and limiting the volume of water that is underground, Matla has improved the safety levels to its employees and the overall underground working environment; it has reduced its daily intake of fresh water thus reducing its water footprint by requiring a lower quantity of water supplies, and the clean water discharged into the Olifants River provides an additional volume of high quality water available for use by downstream farmers and other users.

“Water is a strategic natural resource in South Africa and it is our duty to ensure that we reduce the impact of our mining activities on this precious resource,” says Exxaro CEO Sipho Nkosi.

Exxaro CEO Sipho Nkosi
Exxaro CEO Sipho Nkosi

“We are committed to protecting and improving water quality by ensuring the water we discharge is of the same or better quality than the original consumption. The Matla water treatment plant is a prime example of this approach and is one of three water treatment plants in our Mpumalanga region which are part of our long-term water management strategy,” he adds.

In addition to the Matla water treatment plant, Exxaro have other plants in development at the North Block Complex operation near Belfast, which has recently undergone successful pilot plant testing and is expected to be operational by end of 2015, and another at the Arnot mine near Middelburg, where a pre-feasibility study has recently been completed and a bankable feasibility is currently underway. The plant is expected to be in operation by 2017.

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