Launch of Urban Mining Project

Johannesburg, 28 Nov 2013
eWASA Press Office
Read time 4min 10sec

In an exciting partnership, Mintek and the eWaste Association of South Africa (eWASA) have recently concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which is valid for a period of five years, to jointly tackle the growing challenges of e-waste (waste electronic and electrical equipment), the fastest growing waste stream worldwide, and to unlock potential for the creation of local green jobs, as well as provide sustainable solutions in support of SMEs and the youth.

Makhapa Makhafola, General Manager for R&D at Mintek, says: "In terms of urban mining, Mintek and eWASA have many common objectives. This collaboration over the next five years will allow us collectively to develop technologies that will not only change the way that e-waste is collected and treated in South Africa, but we will also be able to export this technology elsewhere on the African continent and the world."

Makhapa goes on to say: "Currently, an enormous amount of value recovered from beneficiation processes are lost to the country as e-waste fractions are exported for treatment offshore. One of our aims is to ensure that the technology that we develop will be put to good use locally, to ensure that communities and the country maximise the beneficiation flows."

It has been estimated that about 40 million tonnes of e-waste is generated worldwide each year. As environmentally responsible waste management options are highly technological and require high financial investment, there is currently a high degree of transboundary, often illegal, movement of e-waste into developing countries. In addition, e-waste is classified as hazardous waste having adverse health and environmental implications. Approximately 40% of the heavy metals found in landfills come from electronic waste.

Keith Anderson, Chairman of eWASA, states: "This collaboration is one those initiatives that will be a watershed for the industry as well as the country. Urban mining is essentially a beneficiation process of extracting value from the e-waste stream. Traditionally, the cost of reverse logistics is one of the biggest hurdles in getting the e-waste to the point of proper treatment. Utilising the specialist skills and knowledge base of Mintek, who have been involved in the mining sector for many years, is a huge bonus. The main outcomes of this Urban Mining Project is to create a mobile solution that is locally developed, that can deployed to urban as well as rural areas to treat the waste on-site. In addition, we will create employment opportunities, provide training and education and sustainability."

Mintek is South Africa's national mineral research organisations and it is one of the world's leading technology organisations specialising in mineral processing, extractive metallurgy and related areas. Working closely with industry and other R&D institutions, Mintek provides service testwork, process development and optimisation, consulting and innovative products to clients worldwide.

Mintek is an autonomous statutory organisation, which reports to the Minister of Mineral Resources. About 40% of the annual budget of R451 million is funded by the State Science Vote, with the balance provided by contract R&D, sales of products and services, technology licensing agreements, and joint-venture private sector companies. The company has about 700 permanent staff members, over half of whom are scientists, engineers and other technical R&D specialists.

As a company, Mintek operates within the complex and challenging economic and social landscape that characterises South Africa. Added to this responsibility is the task of operating effectively in the global environment, and satisfying the demands of a knowledgeable customer base. Its technical programmes are aimed at generating high economic returns for the national and regional economies. Mintek social programmes focus on skills development and educational initiatives. An important target is the nurturing of self-sustaining local economies in areas of South Africa where smaller minerals extraction and beneficiation enterprises have the capability to generate broad-based employment and wealth.

eWASA was established in 2008 to manage the establishment of a sustainable environmentally sound e-waste management system for the country. As an industry association, eWASA works closely with all levels of government and has positioned itself as an expert in the field of e-waste management. Both the Department of Environment (DEA) and Trade and Industry (DTI) agree that eWASA is ideally placed to manage the e-waste take-back system under the Extended Producer Responsibility requirement in the National Waste Act.

The non-profit organisation continues to work with partners in e-waste management (including collectors, transporters, refurbishers, dismantlers and recyclers) and electronic and electrical equipment manufacturing, distribution and retailers to improve e-waste management in the country. See for more information on e-waste management in the country.

Editorial contacts
eWASA Lene Ecroignard (+27) 82 478 7075
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