Remote sites, including underground mine environments, have no potable water for workers to drink. Workers are reliant on carrying their water to their place of work. The volume of water available for consumption is consequently limited by the amount the worker can carry, often only sufficient for part of the day.
Watercare Mining applied its expertise and knowledge of large-scale industrial water treatment plants, in the design and manufacture of a containerised water plant to treat the complex, non-potable water available at the remote underground mining site. The result? A potable water system producing SANS and WHO compliant drinking water.
The product, CoolQuench Q15C, has been installed and commissioned at an underground gold mine in Gauteng.
To provide each miner with the required eight litres of drinking water as set out in a health and safety standard developed by the mine, the mine was required to install municipal grade potable water pipes to all underground working areas, including the stopes at each level.
This mine has five mining levels, with working areas to the east and west of the shaft, extending approximately two kilometres to the working stopes.
Installation of a municipal water reticulation system presented a prohibitive capital cost for the mine.
The misuse of municipal potable water at working surfaces where such water is available raised further concern. It has been observed that underground potable water is used for purposes other than drinking such as the washing of the surrounding work environment and personal protective equipment (PPE), or is wasted through faulty manifolds and pipelines. A case study highlighted a worst-case scenario where the water consumption measured per employee was two hundred litres per day.
The CoolQuench reliably and consistently provides SANS 241 potable, chilled water for the workers in the remote mine working areas.
This piece of water treatment equipment is designed with multiple water purification steps. The feedwater is treated through a sand and cartridge filter to remove suspended solids, before passing through a reverse osmosis membrane to remove the dissolved salts and heavy metals.
The treated water may, if required, be chilled to 8 – 10 degrees Celsius. A circulating pump passes the treated water through UV radiation to remove microbial contamination. The potable water is available for discharge as cold drinking water.
The units are either 1m or 2m wide depending on the production capacity, 0.7m deep, and 1.7m high. This represents a very small footprint. The weight varies from 350kg to 520kg. An operating pressure of 6.5 to 12 bar and 220V of power is required for operation. The materials of construction are corrosion resistant for hygiene, robustness and longevity. Watercare Mining has installed seven surface and five underground CoolQuench units.
A potable water system serving up a healthy ROI
The CoolQuench Q15C, producing 15m3/day potable water, provides 1 875 employees with 8l of SANS 241 quality drinking water per day. Table 2 shows a comparison of the cost of providing municipal potable water to the workers, ranging from water consumption of 50l to 200l per worker per day. The CoolQuench treated water is 11,2% per unit volume produced more expensive than municipal supply. The total monthly cost, considering the potential waste, varies from 5 to 21 times higher than Coolquench treated water (Table I).
The tabulated savings enabled the mine to realise a short pay-back period of between two and seven months on the investment of the Coolquench unit.
Figure 2 shows a comparison of the payback period (in months) considering the range of municipal water utilisation.
It provides the following benefits:
- The avoidance of capital-intensive potable water reticulation system
- The prevention of potable water misuse
- A decrease in regional water reliance
- Safe drinking water supply for remote work areas
- No requirement for excavation for the installation of the equipment
- Improved working conditions
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