SA News

Rehabilitation costs mount as clock ticks on acid mine drainage

Written by  Wyndham Hartley Friday, 21 August 2015 16:14
Rate this item
(0 votes)

THE cost of closing derelict and abandoned mines to combat acid mine drainage has reached R45bn while old asbestos sites could set the state back R2bn, Parliament's mineral resources committee heard on

Mines countrywide have been filling with water, creating a toxic sludge that leaches into ground water or decants into rivers. Millions have been spent on mitigation as the state struggles to keep the problem in abandoned mines below the critical level.

As the state battles to at least neutralise acid mine drainage, if not purify it, there are concerns about deteriorating water quality in the Vaal River system and its effect on rural communities and agriculture.

Department of Mineral Resources chief financial officer Irene Singo said the best estimate of closure costs was R45.1bn, of which R44bn was for class A mines -  gold, coal, lead, copper, platinum, silver, uranium and nickel - posing a high environmental threat. Class B and C mines, which pose lesser dangers, would cost R1bn.

The cost of rehabilitating asbestos mines was R2bn, of which R200m was disclosed as a provision while R1.8bn was disclosed as a contingent liability, she said.

The contingent liability is in all likelihood to cover potential lawsuits against the state from individuals suffering from asbestosis.

To date, emergency work to contain acid mine drainage has cost R2.6bn while maintaining this until 2018 is estimated to need R875m.

Ms Singo said a key risk on the Witwatersrand was water security as well as water quality and socio-economic development.

But Tracey Davies, a lawyer at the Centre for Environmental Rights, said: "We face a massive regulatory failure as neither department (water affairs and sanitation nor mineral resources) requires a levy from mining companies to treat water and there is no enforcement of the laws."

There are estimated to be 6,000 derelict and ownerless mines across SA. The department' presentation showed that 245 of these were old asbestos sites.

"Given the health and environmental concerns, the rehabilitation of former asbestos mining areas was the highest priority; followed by the sites proximal to communities, with the greatest risk to the health, safety and environment," the presentation read.

SA ceased asbestos mining in 2003 and banned it in 2008.

Ms Singo noted that asbestosis was an incurable chronic disease.

"Communities affected by asbestos mining started to sue the government. As a consequence, the government made a commitment to initiate "asbestos rehabilitation," she said.


Ransacked Gold Mine Venture Reboots

South African mining veteran Peter Skeat is pressing ahead with plans to squeeze more gold out of an 80-year-old ransacked gold mine west of Johannesburg after settling a dispute with three former partners.

Coal Mines leave a legacy of ruin

Oxpeckers publishes never-before-seen data exposing the lack of mine closures, d...

Tours of West Rand gold fields

The FSE conducts regular tours with interested and affected parties, of the West...


LLM/MPhil in Environmental Law Programme launched

  The Department of Public Law at the University of Pretoria hosted a launch of its LLM and MPhil programmes in Environmental Law, coordinated by Ms Melanie Murcott, Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Administrative Law, in February 2017.

Water Show

The FSE will be presenting at a keynote panel discussion at "The Water Show Africa" on the 29th of March.

Lauded for research on SA acid mine drainage

The launch of Acid mine drainage in South Africa: Development actors, policy impacts and broader implications, by Suvania Naidoo, took place on 10 February 2017. The book has proven to be a timely publication because of the incipient water crisis in South Africa. The event was hosted by Unisa’s Department of Development Studies in the College of Human Sciences. The guests were welcomed by the chair of the department, Prof Gretchen du Plessis, who expressed that “development studies is an ever-changing discipline and is a space where different issues converge”. She further stated that the book fills a void in our knowledge about acid mine drainage (AMD) and that the publication is “an example of hard work which results in big achievements”.

Truth of the dust that brings death

  A new hard-hitting report from Harvard Law School details how South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations concerning gold mining in and around Joburg. Bonnie Docherty, who led the research, spoke to Sheree Bega


Eastern Basin acid water plant is "sledgehammer"

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has used a "sledgehammer" for its R1bn treatment plant for acid mine drainage (AMD) on the Eastern mining basin that could ultimately create more toxic water.  This is the view of water strategy and consulting mining hydrologist Kym Morton, who believes government is "wasting money" by pumping large volumes of water and adding lime that makes it alkaline but still toxic and hazardous. 

SABC Health Talk, Environmental Health: 25 February 2017

Focus on preventing illness rather than incurring the expense of treatment....

Rand Water tightens the taps in Gauteng

In the Midvaal suburb where Sipho Mosai lives, the gardens are lush and green be...