Release of the South Africa Mine Water Atlas

Providing new tools for assessing the relationship between mining and water resources

The South African Mine Water Atlas was launched by Water and Sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane on the final day of the 2017 United Nations Water Summit, which was hosted in Durban.

The South African Mine Water Atlas was launched by Water and Sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane on the final day of the 2017 United Nations Water Summit, which was hosted in Durban.

Government published the Atlas, which is freely available, with the intention of facilitating a more informed approach to decision making by both industry and government. The information is also available to investors and developers, providing access to a wealth of information which in the past would only be accessible through industry specialists.

Hosted by the Water Research Commission (WRC), the Atlas is available in both print form and electronically. Electronic versions are available in either PDF (which can be downloaded off the site) or accessible as interactive maps, using adobe flash player.

The Atlas is a comprehensive tool which assesses the relationship interplays between water resources and mining activities in South Africa. The Atlas uses the series of overlays to illustrate the status and availability of ground and surface water resources, and is the culmination of many years of collaboration between the public and private sectors, including national and provincial governments, educational institutions, consultancies, and mining houses.

The Atlas is a highly useful assessment tool for extractive industries stakeholders to understand the potential impacts which aspects like water availability and quality could have on the potential for eventual economic extraction of operational and planned mineral projects. Audiences in the mining, oil and gas industries who would find the atlas useful include:-

  • mining engineers; 
  • mineral economists; 
  • mine planners;
  • geologists;
  • environmental scientists;
  • project financiers; and
  • Government.

The Atlas makes use of multiple data sources which have been gathered over a 50+ year period, utilising GIS to create a spatial framework on which various databases have been overlain. The series of maps include all nine South African provinces, with a specific focus on mining- intensive areas. The maps provide a series of information options, including topography, mineral projects and primary commodity, lithology type and yield, regional and local primary and secondary structures, groundwater yield classes, and surface and groundwater quality. The Atlas has adopted a risk - based approach to determine the status of South African water resources, with the final rating based on two key aspects:-

1. Geo-environmental risk:-

  • mineralogical risk: mined materials and host rock geology and mineralogy; and
  • mining activities: what characterises the dominant in situ mineral extraction process for any “mineral province”, those activities typically within the mine lease area (excluding downstream processing or manufacturing).

2. Receiving water resource vulnerability: the surface and ground water resource, its vulnerability, assimilative capacity and aspects of consequence for local water resources.

The resulting geospatial maps which have been developed are grouped into six categories:-

  1. Mineral provinces

    Mineralised zones that are broadly similar in terms of their host rock geology and mineralogy. This delineation is a key data asset in the Atlas, onto which an assessment of risks such as acid production potential and risks associated with mining activities are included. 
  2. Mineral risk

    This map illustrates the assessed risk of acid production and/or leaching of constituents of concern into the environment. Information on the likelihood of acid generation and associated constituents therein has been sourced from entities including the Council for Geosciences, Water Research Commission, ad Department of Water and Sanitation.
  3. Mining activity risk

    Relative risks per mineral province in accordance with the likely dominant mining methods associated with mineral extraction. 
  4. Groundwater vulnerability

    The status of the vulnerability of groundwater resources to mining activity is presented. Vulnerabilities to and risks arising from underground and surface mining activities are presented separately.
  5. Surface water threat

    Assessment of the vulnerability and capacity of surface water resources to support mining activities at a quaternary catchment level. The assessment is limited to those quaternary catchments that intersect mineral provinces across South Africa.
  6. Mine water threat

    The summation of the risk and vulnerability ratings of the mineral risk profile, mining activity risk and receiving water resource vulnerability produce a risk profile. These maps presents three layers - groundwater status (for surface mining operations), groundwater status (for underground mining), and surface water status. The mapping is limited to the extent of the mineral province delineations, focusing the assessment to those areas that either are being mined, or are likely to be mined.

This information can be incorporated into our services portfolio to provide Clients with an understanding of the interplay between water resources and mineral projects which far exceeds conventional capability.

For more information contact Sarah Magnus

The full atlas can be downloaded here

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Kind regards,
Sarah Magnus
Manager, Venmyn Deloitte

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