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Solutions to acid mine drainage to receive highest priority

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 13 June 2011

Environmental officials are working around the clock to curb the potential dangers posed by the impact of acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand mining area, government news agency BuaNews reported on Monday.

Acid mine water overflowing from an old mine shaft on the Black Reef Incline, near Rand Uranium's treatment pond, 30 January 2010.

An expert team appointed by Cabinet to advise the interministerial committee on the dangers of acid mine drainage to Gauteng warned earlier this year of the need to avert an impending crisis.

The team, drawn from the Council for Geosciences and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), among others, identified various risk categories, including the contamination of surface and ground water required for agricultural and human consumption.

Their recommendations were housed in an acid mine drainage report.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Water Affairs this week, “important progress” had been made by the state in implementing the immediate and short-term actions recommended in the acid mine drainage report. Continue reading Solutions to acid mine drainage to receive highest priority

Acidic water reaches Cradle of Mankind

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 14 January 2011

Acidic mine water that has been bubbling out of an old ventilation shaft on the West Rand for the past year has now reached the Cradle of Mankind, and is believed to have caused the deaths of over 60 carp in a dam.

The whole shore area of the Tweelopiespruit is coloured dark orange. Photo: Alistair-Clacherty

This is the opinion of Dr Francois Durand of the Department of Zoology at the University of Johannesburg, after environmental experts found the dead fish in an irrigation dam in the Blaauwbankspruit.

This stream runs from the Tweelopiespruit, which springs from the radioactive Robinson lake outside Randfontein. From here it runs through the Krugersdorp game reserve, “over” the Sterkfontein Caves, right through the Cradle of Mankind up to the Crocodile River, which runs into the Hartbeespoort Dam.

Neil Norquoy from Wild Cave Adventures found the dead fish on the farm Koelenhof on Thursday.

Millions of litres

The farm is about 10km northeast of the place where millions of litres of acidic mine water has been leaking on the West Rand since last year.

The dam is situated about 3km northeast of the Sterkfontein Caves.

Norquoy said he was virtually convinced that the acidic mine water led to the deaths of the fish as the channels around the dam were a bright orange colour. The orange deposit was a sign of the large amount of iron in the acidic mine water.

Durand said the pollution had spread from the old Rand Uranium goldmine on the West Rand and has now spread north to within the Cradle of Mankind.

At this stage, it has already passed the Sterkfontein Caves as the Blaaubankspruit runs “over” the Sterkfontein Caves.

Water specialist Garfield Krige agreed with Durand and said he believed the acidic mine water of the West Rand had reached the Hartbeespoort Dam “long ago”. Continue reading Acidic water reaches Cradle of Mankind

Vaal water not suitable by 2014

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 December 2010

A water time-bomb is ticking for millions of users of water from the Vaal River – by 2014, it will not be suitable for human consumption.

Water from the Lesotho Highlands to dilute Vaal pollution will not be enough by 2014

Researchers said the problem was caused by acidic water seeping from waste on abandoned mines and by the discharging of untreated acidic mine water into rivers and streams tributary to the Vaal River system.

A report released by the Department of Water Affairs revealed that, by 2014, the water drawn from the Lesotho Highlands water scheme to dilute the high level of pollution in the Vaal will not be enough.

“The increase in dissolved salts and [other pollutants], such as chloride and sulphates, in the river has major implications for domestic, industrial and agricultural water use,” the report said.

According to the department, the Vaal River system serves a population of 12million in Gauteng, the Free State, North West and Northern Cape.

But water scientist Anthony Turton said the pollution does not mean an abrupt end to the supply of water. “It means the water supply to municipalities, industries and agriculture can no longer be guaranteed,” he said. “Strategic industries, such as Sasol and Eskom, will suffer. Economic activity will slow dramatically.”

The research report said the cost of water will increase dramatically. Continue reading Vaal water not suitable by 2014

Johannesburg CBD threatened by rising acidic water

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 July 2010

Millions of litres of highly acidic mine water is rising up under Johannesburg and, if left unchecked, could spill out into its streets some 18 months from now, Parliament’s water affairs portfolio committee hears.

The last working mine still pumping out water in the Eastern Basin was Grootvlei

The acid water is currently about 600 metres below the city’s surface, but is rising at a rate of between 0.6 and 0.9 metres a day, water affairs deputy director water quality management Marius Keet told MPs.

“[It] can have catastrophic consequences for the Johannesburg central business district if not stopped in time. A new pumping station and upgrades to the high-density sludge treatment works are urgently required to stop disaster,” he warned.

Speaking at the briefing, activist Mariette Liefferink, from the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said the rising mine water posed an “enormous threat”, which would become worse if remedial actions were further delayed.

“This environmental problem is second [in South Africa] only to global warming in terms of its impact, and poses a serious risk to the Witwatersrand as a whole. At the rate it is rising, the basin [under Johannesburg] will be fully flooded in about 18 months”

She said the rising mine water had the same acidity as vinegar or lemon juice, and was a legacy of 120 years of gold mining in the region.

Acid water is formed underground when old shafts and tunnels fill up. The water oxidises with the sulphide mineral iron pyrite, better known as fool’s gold. The water then fills the mine and starts decanting into the environment, in a process known as acid mine drainage.

Keet said the problem was not just confined to Johannesburg, which is located atop one of several major mining “basins” in the Witwatersrand, known as the Central Basin. Continue reading Johannesburg CBD threatened by rising acidic water

Gold mine pumps acidic water into stream

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 03 March 2010

A gold mining company which belongs to Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Zondwa Mandela, and Khulubuse Zuma, a cousin of President Jacob Zuma, is being accused of pumping 28 megalitres of acidic mine water into the Blesbokspruit […]