Mine levy to fund treatment of acid water

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 March 2011

The government is looking at introducing a tax on mines as a way to force them to pay for the drainage of acid mine water into the water system.

Acid mine drainage seepage above an old abandoned underground coal mine near Witbank. Picture by: Christy van der Merwe

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Johannesburg on Saturday that even though the government had provided R400 million for clearing and cleaning derelict mines, it was not going to “keep quiet and sit back”.

“Other mines will become derelict into the future. That is when the drainage starts,” she said.

“We have decided that even though we are funding this project, we will follow up with users and operators and using Section 19 and 20 of the Water Act to try and retrieve money for them,” she said.

“We are investigating a possible environmental levy of some sort or a tax, which is money we will be able to use to clean up where a problem of this nature occurs.”

Molewa said the department was working closely with mining houses to recycle mine water.

“We are investigating whether we can use this water as grey water for industry or potable water for drinking,” she said, adding that the department was exploring a range of ways to improve the efficiency of South Africa’s water usage.

“Water recycling has become a reality to be looked at as we begin to explore other avenues with regard to water supply.”

The government, she said, was looking at the “expensive” process of desalination of sea water as an option, particularly in the drought hit coastal areas of the Western and Eastern Cape.

“I know desalination is very expensive, but in Mossel Bay, which is very dry, we have begun with a desalination project and it is proving to be successful.”

Using underground water and the harvesting of rain water were other options being looked at.

“We are looking at ways of harvesting water, when it rains,” Molewa said.

“We are consulting with the Department of Human Settlements on building houses in such a manner that they can help us harvest rain water.

“We are also looking at setting up catchment areas for rain water, so that we can capture the water so when it rains, it doesn’t flow into the ocean as quick as it does.

“I am told it takes roughly 40 minutes for rain water to flow from the top part of Eastern Cape down into the ocean,” Molewa said.

She also said her department had a plan to reconstruct the ageing sewage infrastructure in municipalities, which was causing the pollution of streams and rivers.

“We can’t look away from a potential pollution of our rivers when we know it is going to happen.

“It is a challenge that many of our municipalities have very worn out infrastructure. We are working on a plan to refurbish the infrastructure so that we can catch up on the backlog.”

– Sapa

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