Johannesburg farms at risk from tailings dams

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 08 December 2010

Tailings Dams are holding millions of tonnes of dangerous metals and leading to severe damage to farms in the Johannesburg area.

Gold mines constitute the largest single source of waste and pollution in South Africa

That’s according to Mariette Liefferink, from the Federation for a Sustainable Environment who showed Business Day around the West Rand and outlined some of the major environmental challenges.

Liefferink says acid mine drainage is exacerbating the problem, because it dissolves the heavy metals and precipitated them in water sources and wetlands, where people grow crops and abstract water.

She says the Lancaster dam in Krugersdorp, which is surrounded by tailings dams, is the source of the Wonderfonteinspruit.

The stream is now filled with acid mine water and its wetlands had been classified as the radiological hotspot by the by the Nuclear Regulator.

“Lancaster dam historically was indeed the source of the most pristine water. It was classified by a 1934 German documentary as one of the seven wonders of South Africa. Today as you can see it is filled with acid water. The Lancaster dam is filled with water of a PH of about 2, 6. It is similar to lemon juice. There is absolutely no life,” she added.

“It is as a result of 120 years of mining and obviously very poor management of wastes from the gold mines. The gold mines generate the most cost of the socio-economic impact and also ecological impact. The gold mines generate 47% of the mineral wastes.”

“Waste from gold mines constitutes the largest single source of waste and pollution in South Africa… Acid mine drainage may continue for many years after mines are closed and tailings dams decommissioned,” Liefferink said. Continue reading