Respect for the environment and resident communities through responsible environmental management is paramount to BHP Billiton Energy Coal South Africa and is integral to the way in which the company runs its mining operations, writes Laura Cornish.

“BHP Billiton Energy Coal South Africa (BECSA) understands that humanity’s continued existence is inextricably linked to the ongoing wellbeing of the environment. This requires that mining be done in a sustainable manner, i.e. it allows for the present generation to provide for its needs without compromising the needs of future generations,” says BECSA environmental manager, Muna Forbang.

An environmentally responsible approach to mining is “enshrined” in the BHP Billiton Charter, which sets out its values, and guides decision-making within the company. To this end, BHP Billiton has devised and implemented defined policy guidelines that encapsulate world-class environmental practices, and it is through the rigorous application of these policy guidelines that BECSA ensures it stays true to the BHP Billiton values and is able to make a meaningful contribution to preserving the integrity of the environment and its associated water resources for future generations.

Its participation in the eMalahleni water reclamation treatment plant – an Anglo American Thermal Coal (Anglo) owned plant – is a perfect example.

“The plant ably demonstrates how, through effective collaboration, Anglo and BECSA are able to contribute to the preservation of the environment, while benefitting local communities,” Forbang reiterates.

The eMalahleni reclamation plant

An agreement concluded between Anglo and BECSA entitles BECSA to participate in the plant by means of a ‘right-of-use’ stake. This enables BECSA to pump approximately 3.6 Mℓ/d of mine-affected water from BECSA’s defunct Witbank colliery underground workings to the plant for treatment.

“The treatment of mine-affected water ensures that pollution of the environment through uncontrolled discharges of such mine-affected water is avoided. This in turn contributes to the preservation of the quality of the ecological water reserves.”

“Furthermore, the treatment of water enables the supply of potable water to the community in a region where access to clean water is a pressing need.

DID YOU KNOW FACT?

BECSA is currently constructing a reclamation plant (Middelburg water reclamation plant) located at its Middelburg coal mine). The plant is scheduled to move into operation in 2016. It will treat between 15 and 18 Mℓ/d of mine-affected water.