Mining leaves farmers without water

Farmers rely on windmills to pump water from underground. With groundwater polluted, this is their only source of water. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Farmers rely on windmills to pump water from underground. With groundwater polluted, this is their only source of water. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)


The fish started dying when Hannelie Mudge was in matric. The family farm, which used to have a bountiful supply of clean water in its numerous dams, had to turn to boreholes to get its water. 

“We used to walk into the dam with our nets and catch fish.”

Acknowledging their impact on the local water sources, the closest mining operation agreed to supply farmers with trucked water. But now that supply has dried up, after Harmony Gold – the mine’s new owners – used the findings of a disputed research report to say the local water is safe for consumption.

Without that supply, farmers such as Mudge are left without water. A drought has caused her already polluted groundwater to dry up and the underground supply is so corrosive that her borehole pipes look like sieves. 

The last of the water on her family farm is now contained in a single dam. “When this is finished there is no water. Nothing. Then we do not know what to do.”

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