Best Practice: the Emalahleni Water Reclamation Plant

#cocreate.NL is all about working together to find sustainable solutions. By showing examples of Dutch co-creation anywhere in the world, we hope to share ideas, inspire and connect. In the run up to the international Mining Indaba (8-11 Feb 2016), we zoom in on some great #cocreate.NL examples, operating on the nexus of Water and Mining. This week:  

Project: Emalahleni Water Reclamation Plant
Partners: Pentair X-FLOW (NL) and Aveng Water (SA)
Location: Emalalheni, South Africa

South Africa’s coal-energy producers are burdened with a major water quality concern: acid mine drainage (AMD). After a coal mine is abandoned, it often leaches highly acidic water, which then flows into surrounding ecosystems. Coal mining in South Africa is historically mainly centered in the Mpumalanga province, east of the city of Johannesburg. One of the key distinctions between gold and coal mines is that in coal mines the resulting waters may or may not be acidic depending on the type of rock. Many years of coal mining for power generation, other local use and exports has resulted in an extensive network of operating and closed mines that spans the region.

The Water for Growth and Development Framework, developed by the Department of Water Affairs, has identified acid mine drainage as the most important threat to water quality in South Africa. The acid mine drainage challenge in the Mpumalanga basin is substantial given the extent of mining in the region, and as in the case of the Witwatersrand, threatens water bodies and infrastructure.

Pentair X-Flow is a supplier of ultrafiltration membranes and together with its local partner Aveng Water, developed a solution to these challenges by implementing their three-stage membrane process in the Emalahleni Water Reclamation Plant, making it the the first and only ‘acid mine drainage to potable water’ treatment plant in the world. The desalination plant now treats acidic, saline mine waters and spits out South African National Standard (SANS) potable water.

The plant’s three-stage membrane process treats AMD waters from coal mining operations. Multiple ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis membrane systems operate in a series, which offers water recovery rates of > 97 precent.

Due to limited water resources, the Emalalheni Water Reclamation Plant plays an important role in meeting the area’s increasing water demand and environmental challenges.

For more information on the project, click here.

(Sources: The Green House & Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Doing business in Africa: Water in Africa)

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