AMD laid bare in Water Affairs report

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

The stark and harsh reality of acid mine drainage (AMD) is laid bare in a report by the Department of Water Affairs.

Episodes of AMD decant are contaminating Tweelopiesspruit. Photo: Alistair-Clacherty

The document includes the findings of an interministerial committee team of experts on AMD, assembled in September to investigate the issue.

“Urgent reduction of water ingress into mine voids remained a high priority,” it says.

The department would neither confirm nor deny ownership of the document.

The document proposes various interventions for three areas: the West Rand (Western Basin), central Johannesburg (Central Basin) and the East Rand (Eastern Basin).

It also notes that recent heavy rain and resultant flooding in Gauteng raised concerns that these conditions would lead to more water flowing into mines and worsening AMD in the province.

“The recent occurrence of flooding is in essence a matter separate to that of AMD; however, cognisance must be taken that flood water has potential to enter mine workings and also increase AMD.”

The document points out that water in mine workings is an important environmental concern. Continue reading

Water crisis could cripple economic growth

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

South Africa faces a water crisis that could cripple economic growth and cause a plague of health problems – but critics say the government has yet to act with urgency.

Toxic algae bloom

The most immediate concern is the acid mine drainage (AMD) polluting a vast swathe from the Witwaters-rand to Mpumalanga. Other threats include pesticide run-off, broken infrastructure and failed sewage plants.

As the population grows and economic recovery puts more pressure on limited inland water resources, experts predict a shift of industrial activity to coastal areas where desalination plants will have to meet a growing share of demand.

Environmentalists warn that if the government and industry fail to act, within two years mine water as corrosive as battery acid will gush from Johannesburg’s Wemmer Pan and seep into the city’s streets and gardens.

“It is acutely toxic,” said Mariette Liefferink, who leads a group of non-governmental organisations lobbying for action. “It affects the soil and neural development of the foetus, which leads to mental retardation; it will cause cancer, cognitive problems, skin lesions,” she said. “These are all the foreseeable risks if we do not manage our AMD.”

Acid mine drainage, which occurs when mines close and stop pumping water out of shafts, has contaminated streams and dams on the West and East Rand that feed into the Limpopo and Vaal rivers. Treatment by utilities such as Rand Water renders the water safe, but those who drink straight from rivers are at risk. Continue reading