DRDGOLD – Ergo processing plant and Elsburg tailings site, Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept 2013
On 26 September 2013 Neil Adshead visited DRDGOLD’s Witwatersrand tailings retreatment infrastructure close to the city of Johannesburg. Witwatersrand gold deposits have yielded more than half of the world’s mined and refined gold. The resultant tailings dams dotted around the highly industrialized conurbation of more than ten million people host millions of hard-to-recover ounces. One point of trivia - Johannesburg was founded on gold mining (geology, not geography) and is the largest city in the world that is not on a major river, lake or on the coast. The majority of the infrastructure owned and operated by DRDGOLD was built in the 1970s and today yields close to 150,000 oz gold per year from what is the waste product from multiple old mines. DRDGOLD ‘mines’ the old dams using a high-pressure hose, and hundreds of kilometres of slurry pipeline transport >20 Mt per year to the Ergo plant. The slurry is ground to a finer grain size, run through a flotation plant and leached with cyanide before being returned to the largest tailings dam in the southern Hemisphere (600 million tonnes, going to >800 million tonnes). DRDGOLD has >10 million ounces in resource in tailings dams and, while generating earnings, is performing a civic service by cleaning up multiple historic sites around the city, as well as providing direct employment for ~2,500 residents.
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