Danakil Potash Project Groundwater Exploration

Umvoto Africa was contracted by Circum Minerals from 2013 to 2016 to undertake the water resource assessment for the Danakil Potash Project in the Danakil Depression, North Eastern Ethiopia (the hottest inhabited place on Earth, with annual average temperatures in the range of 36-37 degrees Celsius). This involved groundwater assessment and development including desktop studies, remote sensing analysis, numerical modelling, weather station installation and hydro-climatological monitoring. Umvoto Africa designed and managed the drilling and testing of wide diameter, high yielding abstraction boreholes and numerous monitoring boreholes into primary alluvial fan aquifers. An aquifer stress test was undertaken to aid in regional and local characterisation of the hydrogeological system, during which over 600 000 cubic metres of groundwater was abstracted within a month. 

Improved understanding of the structural setting and associated hydrothermal flows within an active rift zone was achieved through geological field mapping and isotope analyses of groundwater samples. An integrated water resource development and management approach, centred around the monitor-model-manage philosophy, supported the development of a sustainable resource estimation for the solution mining operation from inception through the life of mine. This was achieved through optimisation of surface water flows, aquifer storage and yield modelling coupled with numerical groundwater and surface water flow modelling in FEFLOW and Arena software for discrete event simulation. 

Umvoto Africa continues to offer support and maintenance to several weather stations in the region, across different concessions for different clients. This includes monitoring of evaporation rates for brine evaporation ponds, dust fallout analyses and compliance monitoring of long-term weather patterns feeding into climate change scenarios.