"We believe that finding ongoing solutions through long-term partnership during the mine life span is the best approach to avoid expensive environmental legacy issues in the long run."
Could you explain Veolia’s role in the Ghanaian and regional mining industry?
Through its three complementary business activities, Veolia contributes to the sustainable development of communities and industries.
From next December, our Group will welcome more than 89,000 Suez employees. In all, the new Group will have 270,000 employees who will have to build the global champion of ecological transformation.
In Ghana, our industrial services are mostly directed to mines and relate to water and salt management, meaning co-operating with metallurgists and operations to best manage the excess of water before compliant environmental discharge. We go beyond our portfolio of service offer and design fit-for-purpose sustainable services in accordance with industry needs. A current priority is to grow long term service contracts with the mining industry in the region and develop our activities in waste and hazardous waste management at mines, including mercury or other residues without creating an environmental legacy at site. Veolia also began to work with West African mines to identify sustainable energy alternatives, such as biomass towards improved carbon footprint ambitions.
Veolia was awarded a contract to manage the water treatment facilities of AngloGold Ashanti’s Obuasi mines in Ghana. Can you provide more details about this project?
In 2019, we signed a contract with AngloGold Ashanti to operate their water treatment plants at Obuasi, while the project was still on care maintenance. Now that mining has resumed and is aiming to increase its production, we have 110 people working 24/7 rotation shifts. They have two main tasks: The first is to operate two drinking water plants that deliver water to the community and to the site accommodation, and the second is to operate effluent discharge treatment plants to ensure the water excess that is discharged complies with environmental standards. We are also engaged in a feasibility study as long-term water operator and tasked with providing a comprehensive assessment of the overall water management process from a quantitative and quality view point. At the moment, we are pilot testing options to reduce the salts build up in the water management system and deconcentrate the brine produced by the reverse osmosis process to make sure that mining operation over the next 25 years will not be affected by saturated salts concentrations.
Can you tell us more about the sustainability context for water at mining operations in the region?
In most African countries, there is a positive water balance, unlike other regions where there is a water deficit. What this means for miners is that they must remove contaminants from the water before releasing it into the environment, in compliance with the EPA regulations. At Obuasi, for instance, we operate three plants for environmental discharge, one plant for treating tailings water, and another process plant for cyanide, arsenic, and other heavy metals removal.
Could you share some innovative solutions for dealing with hazardous waste?
In the city of Tarkwa we look at cyanide removal technology using a bioreactor-based technology often used on municipal or food & beverage sewage waste application. This could help reduce cyanide and dissolved nitrogen-based pollution without using reverse osmosis membrane. We have partnered with the University of Mines and Technology of Tarkwa to validate this technology.
What makes Veolia stand out in the competitive water treatment space?
Our value proposition is to co-construct with our customers and partners, providing the least expensive and most sustainable solutions in the long-term. To improve communication with the mine operators, we introduced "hubgrade", a cloud-based online platform where operational data can be shared between the mine and the water operators.
What are Veolia's priorities for the next 2-3 years and what is your final message?
Our key focus is the industrial sector, after many years of having worked with municipalities. Since mines are becoming increasingly concerned with sustainability beyond their operations and after mining activity has been completed, we expect to see a lot of work to ensure a planned and long-term approach to waste management all the way to post mine closure including rehabilitation. We believe that finding ongoing solutions through long term partnership during the mine life span is the best approach to avoid expensive environmental legacy issues in the long run.