The use of mine water balances to optimise water management in opencast and underground collieries in the Witbank coalfields of South Africa
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Mine water management continues to become ever more important with the continual increase and expansion of coal mining operations within already water stressed and contaminated catchment areas in South Africa. Mine water balances are one of the most effective methods to assist in optimising the management of water reticulation and storage in opencast and underground collieries. Before developing a water balance, it is crucially important to have a clear understanding of the parameters that play a role in the recharge and water make into the mining operations. Different methods of data gathering may be employed in order to develop the conceptual model for a mine water balance. A literature review is done in order to obtain generic values relevant to the entirety of the Witbank Coal Field and a case study is done in order to obtain site specific parameters. The case study is done for a typical mine which included both opencast and underground sections in the premining, operational and post closure phases of mining Both generic and site specific parameters is used in order to create three mine water balance scenarios. The water balance scenarios investigated indicate the sensitivity and importance of collecting accurate and representative data when developing a mine water balance. The mine water balance calculations together with the associated storage capacity assessments for each of the mine workings is used to assess and highlight the sensitivity of the input data used as well as to indicate the importance of ensuring that accurate and representative data is used when undertaking water balances as a water management tool.