Sustainable development

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Building with bricks and water

Building with bricks and water
Ivy Maseko with members of her family in front of their new house Ivy Maseko with members of her family in front of their new house in the village of Clewer. The houses has been made with Gypsum bricks, a by-product of the mining process.

When our thermal coal business in South Africa established the Emalahleni water reclamation plant to eliminate the challenges posed by rising underground mine water, it improved the safety of the mines it supports and of our employees. The benefits, however, have been far broader.

Today, the plant plays a key role in the infrastructure and development of the entire Mpumalanga province, providing much- needed water, community growth and enterprise throughout the region.

The plant now desalinates 25 million litres of polluted water every day, feeding it into the critically water-stressed municipal reservoirs, meeting 20% of the local authority’s daily requirements.
With the aim of becoming a zero-waste facility, the 200 tonnes of raw gypsum produced every day as a by-product of this process are also being used as a raw material in the construction of affordable homes.

Trials have shown that the material has the right physical properties to be diversified into a wide range of building products, from bricks to plaster, and these have already been used to build 66 three-bedroom units in a housing project in the Kwa Mthunzi Vilakazi village, west of Emalahleni. The houses, built by local contractors, have made it possible for employees to move away from mine villages to enjoy long term home ownership. The bricks were produced using one part gypsum to one part sand, and the same mixture was used to plaster the units. Tests have shown these materials to be as good as or better than their conventional counterparts and no special equipment is needed for their manufacture.

The development project is aligned with the South African Mining Charter’s drive to promote home ownership among employees, and it is hoped it will soon be expanded to a total of 300 residential units. In addition, it offers an opportunity to further stimulate local employment through the establishment of a community-based enterprise that will manufacture and distribute these gypsum- based products to local builders.

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