The Water-Mining-Climate Nexus in South Africa: A Global Solution for a Local Problem

2019 Faculty Research Award

Award Period: 2019-2021

Princeton faculty members Catherine Peters and Satish Myneni will lead a team working in South Africa to harness a carbon-mitigation technique as a tool for treating water polluted with mine runoff. South Africa is currently experiencing its worst drought in a century and climate change is projected to greatly decrease precipitation further. At the same time, many of the country’s freshwater resources are polluted with sulfuric acid and elements such as lead and arsenic that are byproducts of mining for gold, platinum and other resources. Peters and Myneni will build off of a technique that uses mining waste to chemically capture carbon dioxide at the source of emission or from the atmosphere. They will aim to expand the function of this method to include the removal and containment of sulfates and trace elements from water. The project draws on the researchers’ expertise in reactive transport modeling, 3D computed tomography, X-ray spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction to develop a dual-purpose tool for mitigating atmospheric carbon dioxide and industrial water pollution in areas facing imminent climate extremes and water shortages.

Educational Impact

Undergraduate students will be able to participate in this project through the PEI internship program, yearlong fellowships in Africa through the Princeton in Africa program. Research opportunities will include advanced materials characterization conducted at the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM) and at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Participating Departments

Collaborating Institutions


Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Professor of Geosciences