SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.109 issue7Recovery of gold from the Mouteh Gold Mine tailings damOptimization of shovel-truck system for surface mining author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X

J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.109 n.7 Johannesburg Jul. 2009




Quantification of the impacts of coalmine water irrigation on the underlying aquifers



D. Vermeulen; B. Usher; G. van Tonder

Institute for Groundwater Studies, University of the Free State, 2003




It is predicted that vast volumes of affected mine water will be produced by mining activities in the Mpumalanga coalfields of South Africa. The potential environmental impact of this excess water is of great concern in a water-scarce country like South Africa.
Research over a period of more than 10 years has shown that this water can be used successfully for the irrigation of a range of crops (Annandale et al., 2002)1. There is, however, continuing concern from the local regulators regarding the long-term impact that large-scale mine water irrigation may have on groundwater quality and quantity.
Detailed research has been undertaken over the last three years to supplement the groundwater monitoring programme at five different pilot sites, on both virgin soils (greenfields) and in coalmining spoils. These sites range from sandy soils to very clayey soils. The research has included soil moisture measurements, collection of in situ soil moisture over time, long-term laboratory studies of the leaching and attenuation properties of different soils and the impact of irrigation on acid rock drainage processes, and in depth determination of the hydraulic properties of the subsurface at each of these sites, including falling head tests, pumping tests and point dilution tests. This has been supported by geochemical modelling of these processes to quantify the impacts.
The results indicate that many of the soils have considerable attenuation capacities and that in the period of irrigation, a large proportion of the salts have been contained in the upper portions of the unsaturated zones below each irrigation pivot. The volumes and quality of water leaching through to the aquifers have been quantified at each site. From this mixing ratios have been calculated in order to determine the effect of the irrigation water on the underlying aquifers.

Keywords: coalmines, irrigation, gypsiferous mine water



“Full text available only in PDF format”




1. ANNANDALE, J.G., JOVANOVIC, N.Z., CLAASSENS, A.S., BENADE, N., LORENTZ, S.A, TANNER, P.D., AKEN, M.E., and HODGSON, F.D.I. The influence of irrigation with gypsiferous mine water on soil properties and drainage. WRC Report No. 858/1/02 ISBN No: 1-86845-952-7, 2002.         [ Links ]

2. ANNANDALE, J.G., VAN DER WESTHUIZEN, A.M., DE JAGER, P.C., RETHMAN, N.F.G., JOVANOVIC N.Z., MODISANE, P.C., BELETSE, Y., TESFAMARIAM, E., SMITH, H.J.C., BENADÉ, N., HODGSON, F., USHER, B., VERMEULEN, D. and LORENTZ, S. Predicting the environmental impact and sustainability of irrigation with gypsiferous mine water. Report to the Water Research Commission by Department of Plant Production and Soil Science, Faculty of Biological and Agricultural Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa. WRC Report No: 1149, 2004.         [ Links ]

3. GROBBELAAR, R. The long-term impact of intermine flow from collieries in the Mpumalanga Coalfields. Unpublished M. Sc Thesis. University of the Free State, 2001.         [ Links ]

4. GROBBELAAR, R., USHER, H., CRUYWAGEN, L-M., DE NECKER, E.. and HODGSON, F.D.I. The Long-term Impact of Intermine Flow from Collieries in the Mpumalanga Coalfields, Water Research Commission Report, 2002.         [ Links ]

5. STUMM, W. and MORGAN, J.J. Aquatic Chemistry, 2nd Ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY,1996.         [ Links ]

6. USHER, B.H. Development and Evaluation of Hydrogeochemical Prediction Techniques for South African Coalmines. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of the Free State, 2003.         [ Links ]

7. PARKHURST, D.L. and APPELO C.A.J. User's guide to PHREEQC (version 2)-A computer program for Speciation, Batch-Reaction, One-dimensional Transport, and Inverse Geochemical Calculations. Water-Resources Investigations, Report 99-4259, U. S. Geological Survey, U. S. Department of the Interior, 1999.         [ Links ]

8. GROBBELAAR, R. and HODGSON, F.D.I. Groundwater monitoring at Irrigation Pivots. Report to University of Pretoria, South Africa,1997-2001.         [ Links ]

9. USHER, B.H. and ELLINGTON, R. Groundwater monitoring at Irrigation Pivots. Report to University of Pretoria, South Africa, 2002.         [ Links ]

10. USHER, B.H. and VERMEULEN, P.D. (Monitoring reports for Irrigation Project: Syferfontein Colliery, Kleinkopje, 2003-2005.         [ Links ]

11. HUTSON, J.L. Estimation of hydrological properties of South African soils. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa,1983.         [ Links ]

12. LORENTZ, S., GOBA, P., and PRETORIUS, J. Hydrological process research: Experiments and measurements of soil hydraulic properties. Water Research Commission Report No. 744/1/01, 2001.         [ Links ]

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License