Water polluters to pay environmental tax

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 February 2011

The South African government has hinted at the introduction of a new environmental tax in an effort to address future eruptions of acid mine drainage (AMD) in a country where the economy largely depends on mining.

Government intends to hold people accountable if found guilty of having polluted water.

This comes as Cabinet meets this week to discuss recommendations made by a special task team to investigate how government should respond to reports of acid water drainage in some parts of the country.

Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, speaking at an Infrastructure Development cluster briefing on Tuesday, said while the proposal has not been tabled to Cabinet yet, it was something the state was “seriously” looking at.

“There have to be mechanisms that are put in place to ensure that the law is adhered to … we all have a duty to ensure that we protect the environment so it’s a discussion that is there. The Department of Finance has a document that is circulating on environmental tax and we will see what happens in the future,” Molewa said.

Acid mine water, or water contaminated with heavy metals as a result of mining activities, is reportedly affecting the Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Free State provinces. Reports suggest that this drainage poses health and economic risks for the country. Abandoned mines in Johannesburg and Mpumalanga had been the hardest hit so far.

With the mining industry contributing more than 30 percent to the country’s total export revenue, and having employed 2.9 percent of the country’s economically active population by 2009, environmentalists have termed AMD as the biggest single threat to the country’s economy and environment. Continue reading

Slow pace of abandoned mine clean up leads to environmental disaster

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 01 September 2010

The slow pace of cleaning up South Africa’s abandoned mines is leading to an ecological and environmental disaster, MPs on the Standing Committee on Public Account (Scopa) said on Wednesday.

AMD with a pH of 2.6 flows directly into the hippodam in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve

MPs launched a scathing attack on the department of mineral resources’ mine rehabilitation programme. ANC MP Roy Ainslie said the department’s plan to rehabilitate the polluting mines was “virtually non-existent”.

“It seems it was put together yesterday because it was anticipated we would ask about an implementation plan,” he said. “It implements structures, it talks about policy, but there is no action plan.”

Ainslie said according to his calculations, cleaning up South Africa’s 5 906 abandoned mines would take around 3 000 years if the programme continued at its current rate.

“You rehabilitated five mines in three years. That is 1.5 mines a year, but let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say you’ve rehabilitated two mines a year. We have 5 906 abandoned mines. Two into 5 906 goes 2 953 years. My question is by when do you plan to have rehabilitated these 5 906 abandoned mines?”

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh said the slow pace of the cleanup was leading SA to an “ecological and environmental disaster”. “By that time we will have sink holes, we’ll have contaminated water. It will be an ecological and environmental disaster.

“It is just not on for us to be hearing here that we have a serious problem in this country with abandoned mines and it is going to take that long to recover.” Continue reading