More than 20 years ago, Carol Wade packed up her life in Johannesburg and moved to the scenic heart of the Zusterstroom Valley in Bronkhorstspruit.
Life here has been idyllic: fresh, clean mountain water, pristine bushveld and a tight-knit community of lodge owners and farmers who rely on the largely natural Wilge River to sustain their livelihoods. “The river is our lifeblood, the source of our existence,” she said.
But on 14 February, disaster struck. A single brick-lined concrete seal at the south shaft of the old Kromdraai coal mine upstream failed, decanting millions of litres of toxic acid mine drainage (AMD) into the river system. The mine, which was last operational in 1966, is part of Thungela Resources’ Khwezela Colliery, outside eMalahleni.