South Africa needs houses, and coal mining waste should be recycled. Enter Anglo American, a mining company which is using its eMalahleni water reclamation plant in Mpumalanga province, South Africa to turn mining waste (gypsum) into houses. The plant turns up to 200 tons of gypsum a day into bricks. The gypsum turned into bricks could provide up to 7,000 houses a year. So far, 66 three-bedroom houses have been built, and 300 more will be built this year.
The water reclamation plant, South Africa’s first water reclamation plant, purifies water from five mines, and turns it into drinking water. The plan recovers 99.5 percent of waste water, providing 80,000 people with clean drinking water. The plant purifies 25 megaliters a day, and supplies 18 megaliters to the Emalahneni local municipality. The plant has entered into a second phase in which it will convert 33 megaliters of water daily.
All the water needs of Anglo American's Thermal Coal Greenside, Landau and Kleinkopje collieries, as well as its shared services departments are met by water from the reclamation plant.
In 2007, the plant won two categories of the Mail & Guardian's Greening the Future Awards. In 2007, the plant won the sustainability category of Nedbank’s Capital's Green Mining Awards. AngloAmerican also won a NedBank award in 2006.
The water reclamation plant is a public-private partnership by Anglo Thermal Coal, BHP Billiton Energy Coal South Africa (BECSA) and the Emalahleni Local Municipality. Commissioned in 2007, the plant prevents polluted water from entering the local river system. During the construction of the plant, 650 to 700 temporary jobs were created, and 40 permanent jobs. Most of the employees (91 percent) come from surrounding communities where the unemployment rate is high.
AngloAmerican’s environmental goals and carbon storage projects
AngloAmerican set a goal of reducing its energy intensity by 15 percent by 2014. The company also has a goal of a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions per unit of production.
AngloAmerican’s carbon storage project in southwestern Victoria in Australia is the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration project. Over 65,000 tons of carbon is injected and stored in a depleted gas reservoir deep underground. The company supports an initiative in South Africa to develop a carbon storage atlas which will identify potential sites for a CCS project.
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.