Drought likely to pose water challenges for mines in the medium term – by Ilan Solomons (MiningWeekly.com – March 18, 2016)

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – There is no evidence of water supply concerns related to the current drought compromising mining operations in South Africa, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) tells Mining Weekly.

However, project management and engineering consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV mining director Berte Simons said last month that the drought could become a bigger problem in areas where underground water reservoirs, mining operations and communities interacted, as this would “inevitably” lead to mines and their host communities competing for water.

The department does acknowledge, though, that mining might have an aggravating effect during the current drought on the quality of the water supplied in certain parts of the country, as historical mining activities governed under the previous National Water Act of 1956 have damaged certain water resources.

“Current mine water uses must be authorised in accordance with the National Water Act of 1998, as this authorisation aims to ensure water resource protection and equity in water access and use,” the DWS stresses.

However, the department notes that the mining industry “is a relatively small consumer”, as it uses only about 2.5% of the nation’s water resources, while other sectors, such as power generation, the manufacturing industry and agriculture, use 2%, 3% and 62.5% respectively.

The DWS further states that most mines have long recognised the need to use water prudently.

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