Open Letter on acidic mine water decanting from West Rand Basin

Written by  Tuesday, 20 January 2009 15:12
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Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment has written an open letter to Pam Yako Director General of the Department of Water Affairs.  She calls on Ms Yako to use her lawful prerogative to engage responsible parties on acidic mine water decanting from the flooded West Rand Basin.

Gold mining within the Witwatersrand Mining Basin has left a legacy of 6 billion tons of pyrite, an iron sulfide (FeS2), which, in the presence of water and oxygen, produces acid mine drainage.

The Cost in Rand to treat the acid mine drainage during the first phase is anticipated to be R410 400 000 per year.

It should be noted that the industry is being expanded at an unprecedented rate and this will escalate exponentially in the future.  There has been no provision made for this expansion.

Liefferink addresses some probing questions to Ms Yako in her letter:

  • How much is the cost going to be for the water remediation after closure of the gold and coal mining areas?
  • How much capital will be needed for water treatment plants?
  • How much are the trust funds held by DME from each of the mines?
  • What is the deficit?
  • How will the deficit be financed?
  • How will this be approached between the different organs of state, namely DME, DWAF and DEAT? Where does the Treasury feature?

The ramifications of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) for the sub region are enormous. The greatest focus in this regard is the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

Of no lesser concern, however, are the downstream landowners and agricultural activities that are largely or wholly dependent on groundwater for potable and economic use.

Based on the possible water borne pollution and water toxicity, the communities at risk that are situated within the Tweelopiespruit Catchment.  This means just under 22 000 people in areas including Oaktree, Oatlands, Waterval, portion of Protea Ridge Agricultural Holdings, Tarlton (including Marabeth, Beckedan, Helderblom, Sterkfontein & Eldorado Agricultural Small Holdings).

Download the open letter here.

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