[South African] Platinum mines may run short of water in 2016 – by Tina Weavind (MiningMx.com – November 6, 2015)

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[miningmx.com] – WHILE the mining industry is so far coping with the effects of the ‘Godzilla’ el Nino event causing a drought in large parts of South Africa, the potential for forced cuts still looms large.

Peter Shepherd, principal hydrologist at consulting agency SRK, said he anticipated that platinum mines in the country’s North West province would “… begin to run short [of water] in the next year”.

It’s a potential nightmare for already stressed companies whose operations would face a further setback. Mining is notoriously water intensive and imposed cuts would immediately limit production. Shepherd said that while much of the water used in the processes was recycled, the evaporation from the tailings dams meant this closed cycle system would become less efficient.

In its 2015 annual report released last month, Impala Platinum (Implats) flagged water shortages as one of the most critical issues the company faces and where interventions were needed.

It noted that not only were persistently dry conditions experienced in the north-west where Implats operates, but there were also “municipal potable water supply problems”.

The company stated that of the 39.7 million litres (Ml) used in the year till the end of March, 14.3Ml – 36% – was recycled, a vast increase on the 27% recycled in 2010.

Most Witwatersrand gold mines have an excess of water which has to be pumped out. The drought was unlikely to be an issue, said Chris Nthite spokesman at Anglogold Ashanti.

He said external water was used “mainly in processing”, while water pumped out of the mines was cleaned and used in operational items like refrigeration plants and compressors.

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