Gold-mining outfit’s woes deepen as water affairs acts on waste

THE DEPARTMENT of Water Affairs (DWA) is poised to pounce on a gold-mining outfit that has been at the heart of violent protests on the West Rand for allegedly contaminating parts of a major river system.

This comes after Mariette Liefferink, an environmental justice activist, lodged a complaint against Mintails with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), the National Nuclear Regulator, and the DWA in December, alerting the authorities to a series of toxic and potentially radioactive spillages pouring from its pipelines into the Wonderfonteinspruit, the main reservoir for Potchefstroom.
It is the latest blow against Mintails. This week the Gauteng provincial gover nment succeeded in securing a court order against Mintails to temporarily suspend its operations after residents of Kagiso took to the streets in a twoweek protest over blasting that they complained was causing the windows in their houses to shatter and the walls to crack. Last week, the DMR also suspended Mintails’ operations in Kagiso.
The DWA told the Saturday Star its pre-directive was “imminent” and would be issued early next week at the latest, to force Mintails to clean up toxic and potentially radioactive spillages.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint where the spillages have gone into the water resource but we did see some impacts on the upper reaches of the Wonderfonteinspruit,” said a senior official at the regional office of DWA, who could not be named.
“Our concern is that in heavy rainfall these spillages will definitely wash further into the Wonderfonteinspruit and make their way down. The company will be compelled to react to the pre-directive and if they feel they are not in a position to react, they will have to give us legal notice.”
The Wonderfonteinspruit flows south towards the Vaal River System, a national water resource, and towards the Boskop Dam, the main drinking reservoir for Potchefstroom.
Gold tailings contain uranium and other radioactive materials and metals such as magnesium, cadmium, arsenic, cobalt and “long-lived cyanide metal complexes”, Liefferink explained.
Mintails was violating its own legally binding environmental management plan, she claimed. “They are to remove these spillages promptly, rehabilitate, and prevent future spillages but they’ve never done any of that.
Eddie Milne, the chief financial officer of Mintails, told the Saturday Star it would engage with the DWA “as the regulator in addressing their specific concerns” on matters of regulation and compliance.

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