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SA mining spends millions to combat water pollution

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 09 June 2010

Mining companies operating in South Africa are lagging behind countries like Australia in terms of waste management, science-based services group DuPont said on Wednesday.

Mine drainage activities

“Mining houses in Australia are taking a more proactive approach and are currently adopting best practices aimed at preventing environmental damage, rather than repairing damage already done,” Carlman Moyo, managing director for DuPont Sub-Saharan Africa said in a statement.

South African mining houses were spending millions of rands combating the growing problem of poor quality water flowing into the environment and causing pollution.

However, the reactive nature of the methods being used was having limited effect on repairing the damage caused.

“It is vital that new waste management strategies are integrated into the core activities of all South African mining organisations in order to prevent future damage,” Moyo said.

Until waste control was integrated deep into the culture of mining organisations, it would not be effective.

“Pollution can be caused by something as uncontrollable as heavy rainfall, flooding or earth tremors.

“In these cases, emergency plans are not enough. and preventative measures need to be in place before things go wrong.”

Moyo said environmental rehabilitation programmes should be operational from the start of any mining or extraction operation and should be done concurrently with other mine activities.

“These programmes include borehole extraction to help contain the pollution plume, the containment of seepage and the pre-treatment of all water that is to be released into streams to correct levels.”

Toxic mining waste was currently the most concerning problem when it came to environmental damage and could pollute water bodies.

“The water interacts with bare rock, absorbing sulphates and heavy metals, like iron, manganese and nickel and uranium.

“This polluted water is called acid mine drainage and poses serious environmental threats if the level of this water in old mines rises to the ground water table or overflows or decants from mining shafts.”

Moyo said mining companies were treating water in the West Rand Basin and extracting the heavy minerals.

However, the sulphates, or salts, remained behind.

“The water is then released into the Tweelopies Spruit — a process that has attracted the wrath of environmentalists who are infuriated by the damage to the water course.”

Moyo said this was a prime example of how local mining houses were implementing waste control methods to control damage already done, instead of preventing the environmental impact in the first place.

– SAPA

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