Minerals Energy and Water Resources Minister, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, has lauded Debswana’s initiative in holding the international seminar on Paste and thickened tailings on behalf of the government of Botswana as a true reflection of the partnership between government and industry.
Debswana hosted the 11th International Paste 08 seminar in Kasane from the 5th to the 9th May after it was mandated by the Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG). Previous seminars on the topic of paste and thickened tailing were held in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Chile and Ireland. During these seminars aspects of water recovery and storage of mine residue were discussed.
According to Bernard Busani, Debswana’s Group Metallurgist, Debswana has in the past taken part in most of these seminars and found it appropriate to host the 11th event in Kasane. Through hosting this event, Botswana was able to demonstrate to the international community that this country is developing its natural resources in a responsible manner and is serious about reducing the impact of mining on the environment.
Over 250 delegates, academia and mining experts from Australia, Canada, China, Chile, Europe, Iran, USA, UK and neighbouring countries, representing all major mining houses and regions, converged in Kasane last week to share ideas on reduction of water use in mining operations and seek new initiatives to reduce the negative impact of mining operations on the environment.
When officially opening the international seminar last week, Kedikilwe said that Botswana fully supports the seminar as it has noble initiatives that are on par with the country’s drive for sustainable growth and development.
“This is a vote of confidence on Botswana,” he said, adding that the seminar had come at an ideal time during which the country is faced with challenges generated by the growth of the mining industry. He explained that in 2007, Botswana issued a total of 740 prospecting licenses of which 358 were for diamonds while 382 were for various other minerals.
He said that Botswana appreciates the challenges that are posed by the growth of the mining industry like huge demands on the country’s water resources, generation of waste and damage to land. He also said that in some parts of Botswana mining has contributed to downstream toxic effluent which poses dangers to human and other forms of life like flora and fauna.
“As a semi arid country with an appetite for development, we need to partner with the best in order to maximise water recycling or find alternative technologies that will allow mining to take place without undue depletion of this precious and scarce resource,” said the minister.
He also said that water conservation and demand management and the use of new technologies to conserve and protect water resources are key elements of Botswana’s national development plan water strategy, adding that Botswana will work hard to facilitate research that will lead to the reduction of water waste and also get some value from what is currently considered waste.
He, however, said that the mining industry is ahead of the rest in finding better ways to conserve water and to protect the environment.
The delegates also had the opportunity to visit the paste thickening projects at Orapa mine where they were exposed to initiatives by the mine to extract water from the final residue for reuse in the mine, and also the reuse of the drier residue in mine rehabilitation activities which includes the backfilling of some old workings.