Saense Platform at Department of Biotechnology First with Rare Earth Research

The SAENSE Platform in the Department of Biotechnology at the UFS initiated a workshop in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology during the last week of February 2017. During this conference, the extraction of rare earths from contaminated water were discussed and debated by international collaborators from across Europe and South America. The SAENSE Platform was the first group to study the precipitation of Rare Earths and Yttrium (REY) by microbes and also the first research group using the witherite (barium carbonate) for the remediation of water while extracting rare earths selectively. This novel idea was reproduced by the University of Huelva (UHU) and the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Several other researchers presented their results at the workshop. This was also the start of discussions around international collaborations for the Eramin 2 project and funding proposal. Representatives invited by the UFS included collaborators from Spain, France, Germany, and Chile and was supported by the Department of Science and Technology.

The workshop continued in Phalaborwa, where two of the sites involved in the Eramin 1 project were visited. Stéphane Pellet-Rostaing, director of ICSM in France, were nominated to drive the Eramin 2 proposal with the UFS as principle collaborator.

The group of collaborators, including the SAENSE Platform from the UFS, also finalised an EuREEphos project proposal submitted to Horizon 2020.

International Collaborators 2

Group of international collaborators from France, Spain, Chile, and Germany, as well as representatives from the Department of Science and Technology and the University of the Free State.

International Collaborators

From the left: Women in Science – Isayvani Naicker, Chief Director: International Resources (IR), Department of Science and Technology (DST), South Africa; Prof Esta van Heerden, Lead Researcher Saense Platform, University of the Free State, South Africa; Prof Petra Schneider, University of Magdeburg, EuREEPHOS Germany; and Prof Memory Tekere, Professor in Environmental Sciences at UNISA.

  • Phalaborwa Copper Mining Group 2
  • Phalaborwa Copper Mining Group

Visit to Phalaborwa Copper Mining Group


A Pilot plant for Acid Mine Drainage and the bioremediation of contaminated water was launched on 31 March 2017 in Limpopo.

This novel technology, developed by the SAENSE Platform in the Department of Biotechnology at the UFS, was demonstrated to several mining groups in the area as a cost-effective solution to remediate decanting contaminated water from mines.

A presentation was done to top management of the South 32 Mining group. They also visited the Pilot plant to see the practical application of the patented technology from the UFS. They were extremely satisfied and consider similar pilots as final solutions to manage their environmental risks when closing mines.

  • Pilot Scale Plant 2
  • Pilot Scale Plant
  • Pilot Scale Plant 3


Faculty Manager: Mrs Velaphi Makgwahla
T: + 27 51 401 3199

Marketing Manager: Mrs Elfrieda Lötter
T: +27 51 401 2531

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