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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: November 7th 2014

 
 

Click for more info on Sustainable Minerals '18

  

:: Acid Mine Drainage a “Growing Problem” in South Africa

 

Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) has been identified as a growing problem in South Africa, with fears it may affect water supplies. AMD occurs when chemical processes take place in the gold and coal mining operations which result in the release of sulphuric acid and can lead to water being acidified to Ph. 2 or 3.

Owners of active mines are responsible to clean up and mitigate AMD on their sites, however it is estimated that 90% of AMD comes from abandoned mines, with 6,000 sites identified by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

AMD is a long standing issue and is currently contained by diluting affected water with neutral water to lower the acid content. However, according to Marius Keet, acting chief director for the DWS Gauteng region, 5-7 times more clean water is required to neutralise a quantity of AMD affected water and with growing fears of a water shortage, such consumption is clearly unsustainable.

Keet said his department alone needs to find R10 billion, or £565 million, to dilute water in the Vaal River over the next three to four years.

Marius Claassen, aquatic ecologist and head of water resources research at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said “even if we manage to deal with the legacy, we almost have a growing problem rather than a shrinking problem (with the) explosion of new, smaller mines”.

Andrew Maddocks, head of the Water Resources Institute’s Water Program, says coal projects are continuing to develop in the upper Vaal River catchment as well as additional mining permits, “should these mines go ahead, the quality of water in the Vaal River will suffer from AMD pollution”.

Dr Anthony Turton, water expert and professor at the University of the Free State’s Centre for Environmental Management, says the problem is often “blown out of proportion” and that the chances of prolonged consumption are “extremely unlikely”.

 

 

   

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