Acid Mine Drainage, South Africa

Description

Acid mine drainage is waste water that collects in abandoned gold and uranium mines on the Witwatersrand which chemically interacts with acidic and radioactive chemicals. It is dangerous because if left unpumped it rises to the surface. This has already occurred in the Western basin, and is due to occur in the Central and Eastern basins in the months to come. The waste water is toxic, corrosive and radioactive and spills into the environment where it contaminates soil and local watercourses. This is occurring in the most urban, industrial and most densely populated province in South Africa, and has the potential to affect millions of lives. In particular many informal communities have made their homes on contaminated land, and feed their animals and crops with contaminated water. Some use mining waste as building materials. Parts of the West Rand contain radioactive lakes, contamination of lakes in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve have resulted in animals going blind. There is a danger that the acid mine drainage will hamper efforts to protect the fossil record in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site. Foundations of buildings in the centre of Johannesburg will be eroded. The mining companies have largely left the area and ceased to pump out the corrosive water. On the East Rand, the contaminated water is flowing into a Ramsar wetland. Government is setting aside funds to deal with the problem, but it is proving too little to be effective.

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Basic Data
NameAcid Mine Drainage, South Africa
CountrySouth Africa
ProvinceGauteng
SiteJohannesburg and environs
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Tailings from mines
Mineral ore exploration
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific CommoditiesGold
Uranium
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)40000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected PopulationUp to 5 million
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesAnglo Gold Ashanti from South Africa
DRDGold from South Africa
Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority from South Africa - state enterprise)
Relevant government actorsDepartment of Mineral Resources, Department of Water and Environment, Department of Health, Provincial government of Gauteng, National Nuclear Regulator, Council on Geosciences, Water Research Council, Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority
International and Financial InstitutionsWorld Health Organization (WHO)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersFederation for a Sustainable Environment, http://www.fse.org.za/, Earthlife Africa - Johannesburg http://www.earthlife.org.za/, Mine Water Action Group
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
0
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesEJOs are decrying government for applying solutions to the problem that are inadequate, but need to come up with a clear set of demands for what they would like to see happen.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.EJOs need clearer goals. Government response to the situation is inadequate.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Water Act

National Environmental Management Act

Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act

National Nuclear Regulator Act

References

Adatia R (2010) ‘Inadequate treatment of acid water flowing into the Tweelopiespruit’, 13 June. Downloaded from on 16 February 2011.
[click to view]

Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) (2010a) Chronological timeline of government efforts regarding the treatment of acid mine drainage: West Rand goldfields. Johannesburg: FSE. Downloaded from on 4 January 2011.
[click to view]

Van Wyk J J and R Munnik (1998) The dewatering of the Far East Rand mining basin: a critical evaluation of the government’s approach towards solving the associated environmental problems. Downloaded from - -20151.pdf on 18 January 2011.
[click to view]

Adler R A, M Claasen, L Godfrey and A R Turton (2007) Water, mining and waste: an historical and economic perspective on conflict management in South Africa. Economics of Peace and Security Journal 2(2): 33-41.

Coetzee H, F Winde, and P W Wade (2006) An assessment of sources, pathways, mechanisms and risks of current and potential future pollution of water and sediments in gold mining areas of the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment (Report 1214/06). Pretoria: Water Research Commission.

Durand J F, J Meeuvis, and M Fourie (2010) Environmental management and the threat of mine effluent to the UNESCO status of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa 6 (1): 73-92.

Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg branch (2009a) What is acid mine drainage? (AMD Fact sheet 1), Johannesburg, 16 August.

Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg branch (2009b) Acid mine drainage on the Witwatersrand (AMD Fact sheet 2), Johannesburg, 16 August.

Fig, D (2011) Corrosion and externalities: the socio-economic impact of acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand. Pp. 300-320 in in John Daniel, Prishani Naidoo, Devan Pillay and Roger Southall (eds), New South African Review 2: New Paths, Old Compromises. Johannesburg: Wits University Press

Fourie J and Associates (2006) Environmental impact document: impact of the discharge of treated mine water, via the Tweelopiespruit, on the receiving water body, Crocodile River system, Mogale City, Gauteng province (DWAF 16/2/7/C221/C/24). Krugersdorp: Johan Fourie and Associates.

Frost M (1957) Report on an investigation into mine effluents. Johannesburg: Chamber of Mines Research Organisation.

Gauteng Government, Management Authority, Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (2010) Press release: Cradle of Humankind not yet affected by decant, says CSIR. Johannesburg.

Hobbs P J and J E Cobbing (2007a) The hydrogeology of the Krugersdorp game reserve area and implications for the management of mine water decant. Proceedings of the Groundwater Conference, Bloemfontein, 8-10 October.

Hobbs P J and J E Cobbing (2007b) A hydrogeological assessment of acid mine drainage impacts in the West Rand basin, Gauteng province (Report CSIR/NRE/WR/ER/2007/0097/C). Pretoria: CSIR/THRIP.

Johannesburg Consolidated Investments (JCI) Inc. (1998) An integrated strategic water management plan (SWaMP) for the Gauteng gold mines (3rd revision). Johannesburg: SWaMP Steering Committee.

Jordaan J M, J F Enslin, J P Kriel, A R Havemann, L E Kent, and W H Cable (1960) Finale verslag van die tussendepartmentele komitee insake dolomitise mynwater: Verre Wes-Rand. Pretoria: Department of Water Affairs.

Liefferink, M (2010) Water pollution of the Witwatersrand catchment. Presentation to the Amandla forum, Johannesburg, 19 February.

Liefferink M and Elize S van Eeden (2010) Proactive environmental activism to promote the remediation of mined land and acid mine drainage: a success story from the South African goldfields. Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa 5 (1) July: 51-71.

Manders P, L Godfrey and P J Hobbs (2009) Acid mine drainage (Briefing note 2009/2). Pretoria: CSIR.

Matji M P (2011) Acid mine drainage funding and recommendations. Presentation by the Director of Public Finance in the National Treasury to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Environment, Cape Town, 21-22 June.

McCarthy T S (2010) The decanting of acid mine water in the Gauteng city-regio2n. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Naicker K, E Cukrowska and T S McCarthy (2003) Acid mine drainage arising from mining activity in Johannesburg, South Africa and environs. Environmental Pollution 122 (1): 29-40.

National Nuclear Regulator (2010). Surveillance report of (sic) the Upper Wonderfonteinspruit catchment area (Report TR-NNR-10-001). Pretoria: NNR.

Oelofse S (2008) Mine water pollution – acid mine decant, effluent and treatment: a consideration of key emerging issues that may impact the state of the environment (Emerging Issues paper). Pretoria: Department of Environment and Tourism.

Oelofse S, P J Hobbs, J Rascher and J E Cobbing (2007) The pollution and destruction threat of gold mining waste on the Witwatersrand: a West Rand case study’. Paper presented at the 10th International Symposium on Environmental Issues and Waste Management in Energy and Mineral Production (SWEMP), Bangkok, 11-13 December.

South Africa. Council for Geoscience (2010) Mine water management in the Witwatersrand gold fields with special emphasis on acid mine drainage (Report to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Acid Mine Drainage). Pretoria: Council for Geoscience, December.

South Africa. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) (2001) Waste generation in South Africa (Water Quality Management Series). Pretoria: DWAF.

South Africa. Department of Water Affairs (DWA) (2009) Water for growth and development framework (Version 7). Pretoria: DWA.

Tempelhoff J, V Munnik and M Viljoen (2007) The Vaal river barrage: South Africa’s hardest working waterway: an historical contemplation. Journal of Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa 3 (1) July: 107-133.

Turton AR, C Schultz, H Buckle, M Kgomongoe, T Malungani and M Drakner (2006) Gold, scorched earth and water: the hydropolitics of development in Johannesburg. Water Resources Development 22 (2) June: 313-335.

Van Eeden E S, M Liefferink and J F Durand (2009) Legal issues concerning mine closure and social responsibility on the West Rand. Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa 50 (1) July: 51-71.

Van Veelen M (2009) Wonderfonteinspruit catchment area: remediation action plan (Final draft report). Pretoria: Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and National Nuclear Regulator.

Winde F (2010b) Uranium pollution of the Wonderfonteinspruit, 1997-2008. Part 1: Uranium toxicity, regional background and mining related sources of uranium pollution. Water SA 36 (3) April: 239-256.

Winde F (2010c) Uranium pollution of the Wonderfonteinspruit, 1997-2008. Part 2: Uranium in water -- concentrations, loads and associated risks. Water SA 36 (3) April: 257-278.

Links

Earthlife Africa
[click to view]

Business Day
[click to view]

Business Report
[click to view]

Federation for a Sustainable Environment
[click to view]

Finweek
[click to view]

Mail and Guardian
[click to view]

Mining Weekly
[click to view]

Miningmx
[click to view]

Noseweek
[click to view]

Sunday Times Johannesburg
[click to view]

US Water News
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMs Mariette Liefferink
Last update08/04/2014
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