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Water pumping dispute against gold mining corporations in Klerksdorp, North West Province, South Africa

Carin Bosman and supporters succeeded in filing legal action against mining companies to get them to pay for water pumping preventing further acid mine drainage.


Witwatersrand is a region in the North West Provine rich in minerals, making it a hotspot for mining activities [3]. Within Witwatersrand, there is the KOSH Gold Field, named after the four central gold mining towns of Klerksdorp, Orkney, Stilfontein, and Hartbeesfontein. The surrounding mines are mostly functional, though many have been liquidated as well. Owing to more than a century of mining, the land is now marked by many cavities and waste rock dumps [2]. The extensive underground mining operations resulted in the abandoned mines in the KOSH area being linked underground. When companies leave mines improperly rehabilitated, the interconnecting tunnels, shafts, mined out areas and natural fissures create a pathway through which the underground water flows deep into the connecting holes, forming sulphuric acid or acid mine tailings when heavy metals and minerals are washed into the water. Such drainage causes significant pollution [4]. More information about such pollution can be found at:

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Water pumping dispute against gold mining corporations in Klerksdorp, North West Province, South Africa
Country:South Africa
State or province:North West Province
Location of conflict:Klerksdorp
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
Specific commodities:Uranium
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The long-term cost for the water pumping was R18 million ($2.74 million) per company per year for three years to put the necessary infrastructure in place. There was also a monthly pumping cost of about R1.5 million ($229,100) per company [7].

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:04/06/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd from South Africa
African Rainbow Minerals Gold Ltd
Pamodzi Gold Orkney Ltd
DRD Gold
Anglo Gold Ashanti from South Africa
Relevant government actors:Department of Water Affairs, Supreme Court
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sustainable Solutions
Water Institute of South Africa
Iggdrasil Scientific Services
AHL Water
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Carin Bosman and supporters succeeded in filing legal action against mining companies to get them to pay for water pumping preventing further acid mine drainage. The legal victories continued with successfully blocking Harmony Gold's attempt to overturn the sentence. However, the local community still suffers from mining exploitation from uranium miners.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[6] Supreme Court of Appeal. Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. Vs. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (2006)
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] Africa Institute of South Africa. Management and Mitigation of Acid Mine Drainage in South Africa (Mujuru et al. 2017)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] Hogan Lovells Publications. Like diamonds, a mining company's liability for water pollution may be forever (2014)
[click to view]

[8] Futures. Harmony Told to Share Costs of Pumping Water (Mathews 2014)
[click to view]

[9] Engineering News. State gets even tougher with water polluters (Mawson 2005)
[click to view]

[10] Futures. Gold miners will sell pumped water (Mathews 2014)
[click to view]

[3] EARTH Magazine. The toxic legacy of gold mining in South Africa (du Toit 2011)
[click to view]

[5] Community Monitors. Klerksdorp/ Dominionville dumped by Uranium Mining (2018)
[click to view]

[7] Infrastructure News. Harmony to dispute mine water ruling (2012)
[click to view]

[1] Mail & Guardian. The water warriors (2010). "As an independent consultant... Carin Bosma'ns technical knowledge, coupled with her managerial ability and first-hand experience of “the politics of pollution”, has seen her drawn into some of the biggest environmental scraps of the day, such as the Vele Colliery debacle in Limpopo..."
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Carin Bosman Sustainable Solutions. Our environmental- and water governance solutions help you to take sustainable management decisions.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA-UAB, [email protected]
Last update22/06/2020
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