by Zwanga Mukhuthu of M&G
Fears that a facility to treat acid mine drainage could contaminate plants, animals and people. Government is forging ahead with a R1-billion project for the treatment of acid mine drainage in Ekurhuleni – despite a fierce backlash by residents and environmental experts over the millions of cubic metres of toxic, and possibly radioactive, sludge the project will churn out.
An environmental and civil rights group has implicated a West Rand-based gold mining company in several alleged contraventions of environmental legislation.
A mammoth new plant is nearly ready to treat toxic water. A hundred tons of lime a day and a " hell of a lot" of electricity. This is some of what it will take to power the biggest acid mine drainage (AMD) plant of its kind in South Africa and the continent.
CHANTAL Whiller and her husband did their homework before they moved their family to an upmarket country estate at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.
Whiller’s husband, who worked on the mines in Welkom, had heard about the toxic and potentially radioactive acid mine drainage (AMD) seeping into the Cradle from the Witwatersrand’s abandoned goldfields.
“He took satellite photos and had our water tested,” remembers Whiller. “Everything was fine – that’s why we bought here.”
The FSE is of the firm opinion that many persons and companies want to financially profit from the current situation. This is resulting in failure to holistically identify and manage the AMD impacts and challenges. The reason might partly be that the situation is a political problem as well.
BY MARTIN PLAUT
BY MARTIN PLAUT
Johannesburg – the city of gold – is facing a pollution crisis that could threaten its very existence.
South African officials report that in late 2013 the water on which the city depends will become contaminated, unless immediate measures are taken. It is a threat, warned Professor Terence S. McCarthy, of the School of Geosciences, at University of the Witwatersrand, that could affect the Orange and Limpopo river systems.
The discovery of gold changed the fortunes of those who made Johannesburg their home. But 120 years later, abandoned gold mines on the West Rand have left a legacy of pollution that is threatening the security of the water supply. This pollution has also destroyed agricultural land and led to premature deaths and miscarriages in animals at a nearby game reserve.
The history of the gold mining industry is surrounded by no obscurity. 120 years of non-internalised negative externalities have resulted in a legacy of polluted surface- and groundwater, Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), air pollution, degraded land, gaping holes in the ground and un-enriched and disrupted communities.
Government's newly released report on acid mine drainage and the budget allocated to deal with it has had a lukewarm response from environmentalists.
Mariette Liefferink calls it the smell of death. And after all the years she has spent fighting mining pollution, the environmental activist doesn’t even gag at the strong stench of sulphur wafting from the old mining shaft behind her.