Exclusive Opinion Piece
Independent consulting engineers and scientists, SRK Consulting (SA) has completed numerous surface water studies for feasibility studies for openpits in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) and tropical areas to the the North of the DRC.
One of the main issues around open pit mining in these areas is that the rainfall falls within a five months period and is at least twice the rainfall experienced in South Africa. This heavy rainfall period is followed by a very dry period where very little rain is experienced says SRK Consulting (SA) principal scientist and hydrologist Peter Shepherd.
In mining terms that means that during the summer months there is an excess of water and this excess water will need to be managed in a sustainable manner. During the winter months it is possible that there will be a shortfall of water and the makeup water will need to be obtained from both local ground and surface water resources, says Shepherd.
Shepherd explains that some of the challenges posed by excess water in mine workings include excess water rising to the surface of openpit mines, which flows off into surrounding water sources.
Part of the feasibility studies requires SRK Consulting (SA) to establish whether the mine’s operations would affect nearby river, which supplies good quality water to the surrounding areas. From an open pit perspective it is important that the pit does not protrude unnecessary into a river and if so what controls are required to divert a river around the pit in a sustainable way. It must be remembered that by developing an Open pit through a river that the river will not be reinstated after mining has ceased so it is important that the erosion measures and diversion works are sustainable and operate in an environmentally sustainable way.
“SRK Consulting (SA) has been investigating how to increase the amount of ore without the surrounding environment being negatively impacted,” he says.
Another issue that will need to be addressed is that any runoff from the sides of the pit area and associated waste rock dumps will be silt ladenand large amount of sediment will flow towards the river, which could eventually pollute the surrounding environment.
He explains that it is more difficult to deal with water-related issues at openpit mines after the mine is in operation, hence SRK Consulting (SA) is striving to plan for water systems and a water treatment facility before an openpit mine is in operation.
Shepherd notes that the establishment of a water treatment facility for all mining operations in a particular area is one way to alleviate potential contamination. “
Katanga, in the south-east of the DRC, is known to be one of the richest copper and cobalt regions in the world. “However, a significant share of the copper and cobalt in this area is mined informally and exported illicitly from this African nation,” says SRK.
The company’s footprint in the DRC has included delineating and evaluating the drilling of several copper and copper/cobalt deposits in Katanga.
Shepherd notes that the DRC and Zambia are playing a major role in the production of copper and that SRK Consulting (SA) therefore plans to be at the forefront of developments in this region.
Meanwhile, Shepherd tells Mining Weekly that the bulk of the world’s minerals are mined from openpit mines. “In a business where profit margins depend on cyclical metal prices, it is vital to run an efficient operation based on a carefully calculated mine design and scheduling,” he says.
SRK Consulting (SA’s) services provision includes scoping work, prefeasibility and feasibility studies, reviews of mining methods and technical audits, reviews and improvements of reserves, development of mine designs and schedules, mine audits, operational audits and guidance for implementing improvements, due diligence work, competent-person reports, project reviews and stock market listing reports.
SRK Consulting (SA) typically reviews an existing mine and suggests ways to extend its life through cutbacks and design improvements, taking into account changing commodity prices or revised geotechnical parameters.
The company also assists mines in improving operational productivity through several initiatives, ranging from managing operational issues, such as maintenance and cycle times, to technical issues like blast design and mining sequential mining.
About the Company
SRK Consulting (SA) has a well-established team of professionals, with unparalleled combined experience, comprising geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists and structural geologists.
The SRK team has extensive hands-on experience, gained at mines worldwide, including deep and opencast mines, from Africa to South America.
The company draws on its skills to ensure that its solutions and advice are practical and workable, taking into account the appropriate geotechnical and environmental considerations.
About SRK Consulting
SRK Consulting is a leader in natural resource and development solutions, providing technical services through 45 offices in 22 countries, on six continents. With an African presence in Angola, and practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the global group employs more than 1,500 staff in a range of engineering, scientific, environmental and social disciplines.
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