Environmentally and economically sustainable water treatment system for post-mining waste


Start date: 1 April, 2022 End date: 31 March, 2026 Project type: Research projects in countries with targeted development cooperation (earlier Window 2) Project code: 21-M10-KU Countries: South Africa Thematic areas: Aquatic environment and resources, Economic development and value chains, Water management and sanitation, Lead institution: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Partner institutions: Stellenbosch University (SU), South Africa University of Witwatersrand (WITS), South Africa Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Peter Engelund Holm Total grant: 4,985,766 DKK

Project summary

The environment and water resources in South Africa (SA) are negatively impacted by mining activities. This project creates a research opportunity for treating acid mine drainage (AMD), a type of mining effluent, in an environmentally and socioeconomically sustainable way. While SA has remarkable mineral wealth, the mining industries have left a legacy of negative impacts. Among the most critical of these is AMD, a highly acidic and often toxic waste solution that poses a substantial threat to water resources, aquatic ecosystems, human health, and sustainable socioeconomic development. These are especially relevant to SA as a water-scarce country. This project establishes the potential to unlock alternative water resources and value from AMD through research into a remediation system that removes contaminants, upcycles valuable minerals, and produces clean water and biofuel, whilst understanding the key socioeconomic factors involved. Additional economic value and agency is envisaged at a local scale through the creation of biorefineries utilizing the remediation technology. This project will focus on the Witwatersrand Basin where ground- and surface water suffers from widespread AMD contamination. In this location we are able to base a competent project team comprising leading South African and Danish university partners and private enterprises in a network with authorities, water utilities, mining representatives and local communities. By including the socio-economic value of the proposed research we will demonstrate the relevance of the treatment to wider society and create knowledge for effective, sustainable and science-based policymaking.



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