Location: Africa, Republic of South Africa, Mpumalanga/eMalahleni
Date project established: October 2007
eMalahleni is a municipality of 510,000 people in a water-stressed region of north-eastern South
Africa. It is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the country, and has faced considerable
difficulties in meeting increasing demand for drinking water.
The city lies within the Olifants River Catchment – one of the regions in which Anglo American
has also been working with internationally recognised research institutions to develop long-term
climate models. The results, projected up to 2050, suggest that there is potential for a reduction in
mean annual rainfall in this area. Water shortages - or flooding as a result of extreme rainfall
events - could have serious implications for one of the most economically dynamic areas of South
Anglo American’s Thermal Coal workings in the area around eMalahleni, however, contain
approximately 140,000 megalitres (Ml) of water - a figure that is rising by over 25 Ml a day.
Too little water on the surface is a problem for communities. Too much water underground is no less
of a problem for a mining company.
So Anglo American’s Thermal Coal invested a decade of research and development into mine water
treatment technology. This was aligned with the central government’s mine closure and
rehabilitation strategy, and the employment, development and environmental requirements of local
authorities. The research involved a partnership with South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, and
all of the major mining houses in the Highveld coalfields.
Anglo American subsequently established the eMalahleni Water Reclamation Scheme to treat the water
from its local operations, and that from a nearby, disused mine owned by another mining company. The
scheme was commissioned in 2007, and Anglo American put in place the infrastructure needed to deliver
the treated water directly into the municipality’s system.
The scheme treats mine water from current active mining operations. But it will remain in operation
well beyond the conclusion of active mining, to sustainably manage environmental needs and make
drinking water available to the local community into the future.