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Case study – You cannot manage what you cannot measure

Case study – You cannot manage what you cannot measure


Danny Ramsuchit

 

As one of our biggest environmental impacts, water has long been an important issue in the area surrounding our Driefontein Gold Mine in South Africa. This has taken on even further significance in light of the public scrutiny under which water quality in the Wonderfonteinspruit has been placed. Gold Fields complies with all water-related environmental legislation and conducts weekly, monthly and quarterly water quality tests. As part of this programme, we implemented a pilot project for the testing of water quality that has taken the commitment to water sustainability a step further.

The introduction of an automated continuous water monitoring system at Driefontein has allowed Gold Fields to get the most accurate and comprehensive data regarding both the fissure and mine process water leaving its operation. “Continuous water monitoring means you avoid the normal pitfalls of random sampling, whereby results can be influenced by the time at which the sample was taken, as well as other variables,” says Danny Ramsuchit, head of Environmental Management at the mine. Calibrated and managed by independent company, Süd Chemie, the system monitors pH, conductivity, temperature and free chlorine levels, which serve as early warning indicators.

These results are updated every three minutes and are available on an ongoing basis to company managers and the Department of Water Affairs via a dedicated online portal. They provide Gold Fields with a wealth of data that can be used for trend analysis and immediate, realtime detection of any water quality issues.

Successfully running as a pilot for five years at Driefontein, the continuous water monitoring project has provided a model for roll-out to other parts of the company. The Department of Water Affairs is even considering including such systems as a mandatory requirement for new licensing conditions.