Johannesburg — THE mining and energy sector in SA is expected to spend R180m on water and waste-water treatment by 2015, according to analysis by advisory firm Frost & Sullivan.
In a study which included spending by coal, gold, platinum, copper and energy companies, it said this market was worth R125m last year.
Frost & Sullivan research analyst Derrick Chikanga said mining houses and Eskom were aiming for zero liquid effluent disposal, and this was a key factor driving investment.
“Currently, Eskom is undertaking an expansion initiative that will require additional investment in both water and waste-water treatment equipment,” he said.
Eskom uses up to 2% of the country’s fresh water supply.
Both the mining and energy sectors have adopted a zero liquid effluent disposal policy in which all reasonable steps are taken to prevent pollution of water resources. This is set to boost investment in water and waste- water treatment technologies.
But according to Frost & Sullivan, the lack of funds to purchase the required equipment is a major obstacle to market development.
“The most advanced water and waste-water treatment technologies, like reverse osmosis , are very expensive and cannot be afforded by many of the smaller mining companies,” said Mr Chikanga.
“Most mining companies lack the necessary financial resources to acquire advanced treatment equipment and instead opt for the cheaper options such as lime treatment to reduce acidity.”
Jaco Schoeman, MD of the Western Utilities Corporation, which supplies water treatment technology to the mining sector, said that although water treatment technology was expensive, “we know the technology is good”. “We regard water as a free resource and a basic human right, and that’s how it should be. But we tend not to put a value on it.”
Mr Schoeman said the conversion to new-order mining licences – a process which had to be completed by May last year – included a greater focus on environmental rehabilitation and reducing pollution.
But he said environmental concerns had a wider basis than a desire to comply with legislation, saying the problem was increasingly being seen from a moral perspective.
Frost & Sullivan said that despite the affordability challenge, the market still presented several opportunities for growth.
It said equipment suppliers needed to supply products within the budgets of mining houses to complement the technology types currently on offer. This would enable companies to capture both the low-and high-budget end-users, it said.