The Witwatersrand Basin is the heart of South Africa’a gold mining industry. The cluster of gold mines located in the Witwatersrand Basin generates a significant amount of mine tailings, which have adverse effects on the environment and ecological systems. In addition, disposal costs are very high. The exponential population growth in the Witwatersrand area has resulted in pressure on the reserves of traditional building materials. Quarrying for natural construction material is very expensive and damages the landscape. This work therefore examines the use of gold mine tailings in the production of bricks.
Different mixing ratios of gold tailings, cement, and water were used. The resulting bricks were then cured in three different environments – sun dried, oven dried at 360°C, and cured in water for 24 hours. The bricks were then tested for unconfined compressive strength, water absorption, and weight loss. The results showed that the mixture with more cement than tailings had a compressive strength of approximately 530 kN/m2. It was also found that the best brick curing system was in a water environment. Bricks made from tailings cost more than conventional bricks because of the higher quantity of cement used, but the manufacturing process consumes less water. Overall, the results indicated that gold mine tailings have a high potential to substitute for the natural materials currently used in brickmaking.Click here to read the full paper.