Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin firms may be able to supply the technology that is needed to address an environmental hazard.

Wisconsin companies in the water reclamation sector may want to take a look at South Africa, a dry country with limited water resources and a mining sector that demands much of the domestic supply. A century of mining in South Africa has had a positive influence on the economy, with revenues of $35 billion per year. However, this industry has had adverse effects on the environment, especially water resources. Mining operations have led to the South African government having to spend an estimated $750 to $900 million on short- and long-term water remediation solutions. South African Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has stated that the project funding will come not just from the government, but will be shared by the mining sector and by water users.

At the same time, South Africa’s Water Research Commission is exploring emerging technologies to boost the government’s efforts to manage acid mine drainage (AMD). South Africa’s state-owned minerals researcher, Mintek, and a water services specialist, Veolia Water Technologies South Africa, have begun pilot testing a jointly developed treatment process designed to will transform AMD into potable water or water for industrial use. The pilot plant is the amalgamation of Mintek’s patented SAVMIN AMD treatment process and Veolia’s patented Actiflo and Multiflo water treatment technologies. The SAVMIN process targets the removal of both heavy metals and sulfates, and as a result, the pilot plant’s technology has been considered as a possible long-term approach to sustainable AMD treatment in South Africa. Even if the AMD problem can be solved quickly through the use of new technology, it is still considered a major environmental liability for South Africa, and a problem that was ignored for too long due to South Africa’s politics and governance challenges.