Background

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), together with the Chamber of Mines, has set out Water Conservation and Management Guidelines for the mining industry detailing the recommended practices regarding water use on mines. The guidelines introduced benchmarks for the use of water in the mining industry.

The Water Intensity Benchmarks, which is the total water withdrawal per ton from source, provides a value that indicates how water-intensive an organisation/user is and creates a unit with which the water usage can be com├ąpared. Given the guidelines, each water user must report on their usage and Water Intensity.

Several water users use a manual process to gather mechanically metered data and manually report on it. The totalized flow readings are taken by hand at each flow meter location in the field. This data is manually processed into a spreadsheet with limited to no analytics or trending services. The manual process is questionable as it relies on the human element which is proving to be not as reliable as expected.

The digital 4IR initiative in mines motivates the need for a system that allows remote monitoring and control of equipment with an Internet of Things (IoT) approach. Business needs to keep up with IoT development if it wants to take part in the greater scheme of the digital evolution, better known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4ID).

Department of Water and Sanitation

Another major stumbling block is that the DWS does not have a single standard that provides clear guidance related to the exact legal definition of water use. This results in the DWS regulating on-site activities, such as product stockpiles, by means of the water-use authorization process. It is, therefore, possible that the water uses associated with a particular mining operation can change based upon the latest interpretation of the Act by DWS officials.

Therefore, it is very important to provide the correct technical supporting information to the DWS in the format of integrated water and waste management system to support the water-use license application.

The DWS need to be able to set water restrictions or change usage limits from time to time to protect resources. Specific water use reports must be used to validate the implementation of restrictions, hence properly measured water usage is required by DWS.

Example of non-compliance

Complying with your DWS Water Use License can quickly escalate to be a serious issue especially if DWS arrives on-site and opens a criminal case against the General Manager for not following an agreed water management process. This happened to Woestalleen Colliery in 2020 and resulted in a lot of downtime and relationship issues, all that could have been prevented had Woestalleen had accurate info of what s being used, recycled and wasted.

What can Minelert IoT do?

Definitely the most affordable IoT solution in South Africa, Minelert IoT is designed for the Industry and it implements quickly and with minimum business disruption. The Minelert IoT system brings a turnkey solution with digital flow meters to ensure your water management can be accurately be reported on.

Potential benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Automated accurate water volumes management/monitor/control/reporting.
  • Increased reliability of water provision and environmental considerations.
  • Compliance with DWS water use and restrictive legislation.
  • Measure and report on water volume recycled.
  • Measure and report on water discarding into natural resources.
  • Effectively measure successes and progress when implementing water restrictions.
  • Automated water stockpiling management.

PS: Applying for a Water Use License nowadays

The DWS improved the previous 300-day application turnaround time to 90 days using an online platform available at e-WULAAS (dws.gov.za). As stated in the law, the water usage must be metered if using more than 40,000 litres per month.

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