SA News

Mine Shafts: Accidents waiting to happen

Written by  Sheree Bega Monday, 06 March 2017 05:47
Rate this item
(0 votes)

 

Eighty-two shafts without warning signs.  Twenty-two open shafts.  Three waterlogged holings.  And of the reported closed mine shafts, 64 had collapsed or needed refilling.

These are among the main findings of a Department of Mineral Resources’ “Risk Area Status” report spanning the Witwatersrand’s mining belt from November 2011.

Its investigators also uncovered “subsidences that need to be inspected” and how “many of the open shafts and holings have been filled with sand and not rock material”, which may exacerbate the collapse of shafts and holings.

The same year, another report by then-Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said 1.6 million impoverished people lived on mine residue deposits.

High risk informal settlements would need to be relocated to minimise human health risks.

But six years later, says Mariette Liefferink, a mining activist, little has been done to address this.

“There are so many of these mine shafts around Gauteng.  They’re just accidents waiting to happen.”

This week, after 5-year old Richard Thole fell into a mineshaft in Jerusalem, an informal settlement in Ekurhuleni, she appealed to authorities to tend to another: A new cave-in and road collapse near JC Esterhuysen Primary School in Riverlea, at Central Rand Gold’s open pit, west of Joburg.

“We’ve written so many letters to the DMR over the years about this but nothing’s been done.”

The department did not respond to a request for comment.

Liefferink points out how the National environmental Management Act imposes a duty of care upon the government and mining companies to protect communities, but “there is a systemic failure by the responsible organs of state to exercise their statutory duty of care in this regard.”

William Ntladi, the emergency services spokesman for Ekurhuleni, told the Sunday Independent that an agreement had been reached with the Council for Geoscience (CGS) that the mine shafts in the area would now be sealed.

A month ago, the concrete plug of the mine shaft under Jerusalem had collapsed.  Consequently a site inspection of various suspected shafts around the area was conducted by the city’s department of emergency management services and city planning departments, CGS and the DMR as he custodians of current and abandoned mines and (who) have a database of shafts.

“A decision was taken by the city and CGS on the closure of disused mine shafts in the agreement that the CGS would rehabilitate after an investigation of the ownership of the land.  These can only be done on shafts which have no owners.

“In the inspection of holes, some shafts/holes had been previously rehabilitated only to be vandalised by illegal miners to gain entry to the shafts.  Fences/barricades had been put up as a temporary measure but these were stolen.”

The CGS and DMR were the “only two institutions who have the expertise to (deal with) these matters and are also custodians of mining land.  The City of Ekurhuleni can only facilitate CGS and DMR as the city does not have old and new mine shaft plans nor the expertise in the rehabilitation of mine shafts”.

Balmoral Gold Mines sealed the shaft in the 1950’s.

“The informal settlement is on private mining land.  The city is relocating residents.  The municipality is engaging with the mining companies owning the land and the DMR, to come up with a better solution.”

MINING

Tours of West Rand gold fields

The FSE conducts regular tours with interested and affected parties, of the West Rand gold fields and Sibanye Gold’s operations. 

Mine Shafts: Accidents waiting to happen

  Eighty-two shafts without warning signs.  Twenty-two open shafts.  Three wate...

Residents left in the dark over AMD treatment

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has been accused of “authorising po...

SA NEWS

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

Harvard Report: The Cost of Gold

A report has been published by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic titled "The Cost of Gold: Environmental, Health, and Human Rights Consequences of Gold Mining in South Africa’s West and Central Rand.   The reports states, "The complex web of responsible government agencies and repeated legislative changes to that organizational structure have impeded the development of a coordinated plan to deal with the negative effects of mining. The limited scope of action, inadequate attention to at-risk communities, and insufficient consideration of environmental concerns have undermined the completeness of any response."

SA hasn't protected residents from gold mine pollution: Harvard report

JOHANNESBURG South Africa has failed to protect residents affected by pollution from contaminated water and mine dumps over more than 130 years of gold mining near Johannesburg, an independent investigation by the Harvard Law School said.

WATER

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...