Investigation into alternative water treatment technologies for the treatment of underground mine water discharged by Grootvlei Proprietary Mines Ltd into the Blesbokspruit in South Africa

Academic Article

Abstract

  • Grootvlei Proprietary Mines Ltd is discharging between 80 and 100 M1/d underground water into the Blesbokspruit. This water is pumped out of the mine to keep the underground water at such a level as to make mining possible. The water is of poor quality because it contains high TDS levels (2700-3800 mg/1) including high concentrations of iron, manganese, sulphate, calcium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. This water will adversely affect the water ecology in the Blesbokspruit, and it will significantly increase the TDS concentration of one of the major water resources if not treated prior to disposal into the stream. Therefore, alternative water desalination technologies were evaluated to estimate performance and the economics of the processes for treatment of the mine water. It was predicted that water of potable quality should be produced from the mine water with spiral reverse osmosis (SRO). It was demonstrated that it should be possible to reduce the TDS of the mine water (2000-2700-3400-4500 mg/1) to potable standards with SRO (85% water recovery). The capital costs (pretreatment and desalination) for a 80 M1/d plant (worst-case water) were estimated at US$35 M. Total operating costs were estimated at 88.1c/kl. Brine disposal costs were estimated at US$18 M. Therefore, the total capital costs are estimated at US$53 M. It was predicted that it should be possible to produce potable water from the worst-case feed water (80 MI/d) with the EDR process. It was demonstrated that the TDS in the feed could be reduced from 4178 to 246 mg/l in the EDR product (65% water recovery). The capital costs (pretreatment plus desalination) to desalinate the worst-case feed water to potable quality with EDR is estimated at US$53.3M. The operational costs are estimated at 47.6 c/kl. Brine disposal costs were estimated at US$42M. Therefore, the total capital costs are estimated at US$95.3 M. It was predicted that it should be possible to produce potable water from the mine water with the GYP-CIX ion-exchange process. It was demonstrated that the feed TDS (2000-4500 mg/1) could be reduced to less than 240 mg/l (54% water recovery for the worst-case water). The capital cost for an 80 MI/d ion-exchange plant (worst-case water) was estimated at US$26.7M (no pretreatment). Operational costs were estimated at 60.4 c/kl. Brine disposal costs were estimated at US$55.1 M. Therefore, the total desalination costs were estimated at US$81.8 M. The capital outlay for a SRO plant will be significantly less than that for either an EDR or a GYP-CIX plant. The operating costs, however, of the RO plant are significantly higher than for the other two processes. Potable water sales, however, will bring more in for the RO process than for the other two processes because a higher water recovery can be obtained with RO. The operating costs minus the savings in water sales were estimated at 17.2; 6.7 and US$8.6 M/y for the RO, EDR and GYP-CIX processes, respectively (worst case). Therefore, the operational costs of the EDR and GYP-CIX processes are the lowest if the sale of water is taken into consideration. This may favour the EDR and GYP-CIX processes for the desalination of the mine water.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Desalination  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Schoeman JJ; Steyn A
  • Start Page

  • 13
  • End Page

  • 30
  • Volume

  • 133
  • Issue

  • 1