Notes from the underground

Sibanye Gold operates a large mine on the West Rand in Guateng, South Africa. The quality of the mine’s water is assured by Watercare Mining. Together, Sibanye and Watercare identified a need to draw on an alternative supply of potable water than that supplied by Rand Water. This would reduce both water consumption and costs.

The obvious solution was to draw on underground dolomitic water to replace the fresh water supply from Rand Water. However, this would require the softening of the high calcium dolomitic water. Conventional softening methods such as lime softening or ion exchange produce a significant volume of sludge or brine, creating high operational costs. Variations in underground mine water quality and (minor) contamination are further challenges in treating dolomitic water up to a potable standard.

The solution is crystal clear

In their quest to secure a high quality source of potable water, Sibanye and Watercare consulted Royal HaskoningDHV. Following detailed investigations, it was decided that Royal HaskoningDHV’s Crystalactor softening technology would form the core of the process.

Crystalactor has a proven record of overcoming variations in feed water quality. And, crucially, Crystalactor produces crystals instead of a bulky sludge or brine, keeping the costs for sludge discharge under control. At the Sibanye mine, the produced crystals are discharged to the tailings facility. Crystalactor also offers low operational and management costs and low energy consumption.

Successful production

The plant was successfully started up in January 2016 and has been in production since February 2016. The current operation treats 3.7 Mℓ/day of mine water to potable/drinking water quality with a design capacity of 6 Mℓ/day. Owing to Crystalactor’s relatively low operating and maintenance costs, the payback period will be short.

Benefiting local communities

This visionary water savings project will continue to make more water available for surrounding communities by reducing demand on the local water reticulation network.

Royal HaskoningDHV will continue to provide operational and specialist support for Crystalactor’s central role in the water softening process. Thus Sibanye Gold will continue to benefit from a reduction in water use and costs.

About Sibanye Gold

Sibanye Gold is part of Sibanye-Stillwater, a global and independent precious metals mining company. Sibanye Gold is one of the largest producers of South African gold and one of 10 largest gold producers globally.

Sibanye-Stillwater promotes sustainability by extending the operating lives of its assets and by investing in and facilitating socio-economic projects to ensure the long-term viability of communities. The sustainable management of the water resource and infrastructure is central to this effort, ensuring water safety, security and regulatory compliance via the effective use of knowledge and innovative technology.


Sibanye Gold

How can we save water and costs by softening dolomitic water up to a potable standard?

A softening method provided by Royal HaskoningDHV’s Crytalactor.


  • Reduced water usage leads to reduced cost
  • Potable water thanks to the Crystalactor water-softening process
  • ROI less than 2 years
  • Makes more water available for local communities