WITS AMD Appeal

Written by  Tuesday, 20 November 2012 00:00
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The Federation for a Sustainable Environment has given notice of appeal to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Extracts from the notice follow:

Underground water was seen by the mining industry as a nuisance which had to be pumped out as quickly and cheaply as possible from the mining areas in order to mine the mineral reserves. What seems logical is the realization that if water was present prior to mining it would also be present after mining when pumping ceases, that is, when pre-mining flow patterns and volumes are restored. This decanting and potential decanting of water from mining areas within the Witwatersrand area have been contemplated since the late 1950’s.

The term “emergency” is not appropriate. This situation has been foreseen for decades, The current situation is the consequence of the failure of the relevant authorities to act.

The West Rand Basin has been decanting since 2002 and untreated AMD and partially treated water, as a result of the neutralization process, have been and will be flowing into the Tweelopie Spruit. The historical, current and long term future impacts on the receiving environment have been and will be devastating.

The Zwartkrans compartment has sulphate concentrations higher than what would be expected from a dolomitic aquifer. The accumulative impacts of the last decade of significant higher volumes of AMD – both untreated and partially treated – must be assessed.

Even though the AMD is now treated and the sulphate concentration in the water recharging the Zwartkrans aquifer has been lowered from ~4 500 to ~2 500 mg/l, it cannot be assumed that this alone will contribute towards a reduction in sulphate
concentration in this aquifer. It merely implies that the rate of rise in sulphate concentration will decrease, but it will continue to rise until the sulphate concentration reaches an equilibrium.

There is a significant problem....a consequence of the relevant authorities’ failure to take timeous actions and implement measures to protect the receiving environment and the water users and ecology that depend on it from the pollution.

The current approach of partially treating water by means of neutralisation and not desalination has been actuated by the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Acid Mine Drainage.

It is evident... that the impacts and consequences of the AMD have been known for many years and the Inter-Ministerial Report, published in December, 2010, had given ample time to the relevant authorities to structure a formal
process of public engagement and planning in order to obviate a pending disaster as is the case now. The allegation by the DWA and the TCTA that insufficient time was available to do a normal EIA study and process is simply does not have validity. If this process had continued, notwithstanding the delays, the first background information document could have been submitted to the public at the end of 2011. It follows hence that, if this was the case, all of the necessary legislative processes could have been completed.

We conclude that the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) were never interested in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process that would have drawn the public’s attention to the historical pollution that had already taken place, the consequences of that pollution, the need to not only partially treat the water but also desalinate and the apportionment of liability. There can be no justification for the delays in time that had taken place and the above parties’ refusal to investigate and assess, inter alia, the comparative benefits and costs of desalination vs partial treatment neutralization). This is directly related to the said parties’ apprehension in fully confronting the issue. This, we believe, stems from their reluctance to implement the polluter pays principle and to hold the mining industry responsible for the pollution that has occurred and will occur. The polluter pays principle is an intrinsic part the National Environmental Management Act (No 107 of 1998) (NEMA)5.

Read the entire notice.

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