Acid mine drainage reaches Cradle of Humankind

Decisive action has become imperative as acidic mine water has reached the Cradle of Humankind from the West Rand, the United Association of South Africa said on Friday.

“If urgent measures aren’t taken immediately, it will result in reactive rather than proactive measures trying to limit the damage instead of preventing it,” said Andre Venter, the trade union’s spokesperson.

In response to the millions of litres of acid mine drainage already flooding or threatening to flood South Africa’s streams, rivers, cities, and towns, a variety of solutions have been proposed with varying degrees of effectiveness and cost.

He said in a statement that acid mine drainage had now reached the Cradle of Humankind, as predicted by scientists and water specialists, from the West Rand via the Tweelopiespruit which springs from the radioactive Robinson lake outside Randfontein.

“We therefore urgently remind government, once again, that decisive action has become imperative.”

Venter said that while South Africans were witnessing a “catastrophe”, government committees were debating the issue in boardrooms, and nothing was being done to prevent the decanting of the acidic water.

The increased rainfall over the last few months had raised the level of the acidic mine water in the underground mined-out pockets of the Witwatersrand.

On the West Rand there were now reportedly about 40-million litres of acid mine drainage leaking into the Tweelopiespruit each day.

“It is all very well that the inter-ministerial committee appointed by the Department of Water Affairs to investigate completed its work, but besides the announcement of a report of which the findings were never made public, we have heard nothing further.”

In July 2010 the department stated that potential decant within the Johannesburg area could take place within 18 months, or by early 2012. Those 18 months had now shrunk to 12 months, Venter said.

“AMD (acid mine drainage) has been described as one of the most significant environmental threats facing South Africa, already a water scarce country.”

With 98% of all South Africa’s available fresh water already being utilised, it was important that the remaining 2% was protected and conserved, Venter said.

“UASA trusts that the Department of Water Affairs will recognise the situation for what it is—a pending disaster—and act accordingly.” - Sapa

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