Lucara Botswana’s Karowe diamond mine is located near the village of Letlhakane in the eastern Kalahari Basin region of Botswana where temperatures average 35°C and water is scarce.

WEC Projects has secured a R3 million contract for the expansion of the mine’s sewage treatment facility.

The company installed the original treatment plant in 2012 and will integrate the new system into the existing facility, increasing throughput from 100 m3 to 150 m3 per day to meet the requirements of an increase in the number of staff at the mine.

The main sewage treatment facility will consist of a WEC Projects Model A treatment plant, an extended aeration system using conventional activated sludge to process the sewage.

The wastewater passes through a mechanical screen, which removes solids and is then treated by a biological reactor that integrates anoxic, aerobic and clarification zones.

Karowe, currently an open-pit diamond mine, is located in the eastern Kalahari Basin region of Botswana
Reed bed wetland system

While the treatment plant itself is a standard installation, the mine requested a variation to the original project scope – a man-made natural reed bed wetland system that will provide a ‘polishing’ phase to the treatment process, using natural organisms and filtration processes to further clean the wastewater.

“This is a particularly unique feature for a mine, as such reed bed wetlands are usually built for much larger installations such as municipal sewage treatment. The government’s mandate for water conservation has forced companies in Botswana to apply creative thinking to overcome the challenge of operating in an arid country,” says Wayne Taljaard, MD of WEC Projects.

After treatment, the water will enter the reed bed wetland area where it will percolate through the reed bed, allowing microorganisms to break down contaminants such as sulfur, heavy metals and chlorine. The water produced by this process, while not for human consumption, will be reused by the mine for applications such as irrigation and dust suppression.

To create the wetland, a shallow dam will be built, its bottom filled with gravel and reeds planted. The water from the treatment plant will feed into the wetland area where nature will be left to take its course.

“The reed bed solution offers a number of advantages for the mine, as the effluent will be relatively odourless and is flexible enough to cope with fluctuations in input. It also requires little maintenance once it is up and running, and will ensure that the mine remains within the confines of the law,” adds Taljaard.

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