It’s deeply satisfying to assist on a project where the end goal is to provide solutions that support the sustainable use of scarce resources. When South32 Coal Holdings – formerly Billiton Energy Coal South Africa – appointed Aurecon as the engineering, procurement and construction management contractor (EPCM) for the Middelburg Water Reclamation Project, it presented the perfect opportunity to help provide innovative solutions that would ultimately result in Middelburg Colliery being able to treat mine water and then release the (now clean) water into a natural stream.
The project involved the construction of the non-process infrastructure for a plant to treat mine-impacted water from the colliery’s Hartebeesfontein, Goedehoop and Klipfontein sections, and the release of surplus water into the Spookspruit, a tributary of the Upper Olifants River. The process plant was delivered by another EPCM contractor. The brief also called for project management and controls, construction management, site supervision and quality management, as well as health, safety, and environmental measures.
Spread over a wide area, the Middelburg Water Reclamation Project sits on environmentally-sensitive wetlands, dams, and across active mining areas and public roads. This posed some unique challenges. From an environmental protection perspective, Aurecon had to ensure that any permanent impact on the surrounding wetlands was minimised. The team also implemented an innovative health and safety programme, which adhered to the mining industry’s rigorous standards.
Aurecon believes strongly that innovation lies in building diverse, multidisciplinary teams. Hence our 70-strong project team comprised of staff from Aurecon’s offices in South Africa and Australia. This broad collaboration is about designing and creating sound solutions.
By bringing together all the design elements using 3D packages, our designers cut down on the delivery time for the design while simultaneously ensuring that engagement on design-related queries took place during the construction phase. This ability to think out of the box extended to the design of the storage facilities and pipes, which had to be corrosion resistant.
The team employed a design-led thinking approach in the design and construction of a water collection system and structures that could handle the extremely corrosive mine water.
The end result? All-round engineering excellence contributed to the completion of the project for a sustainable environmental protection solution.