Johannesburg – The managers of the Cradle of
Humankind feel optimistic they will retain their world heritage status as they prepare a response to the government’s study on the possible threat of acid mine drainage (AMD) in the area.
“At the moment the fossils are not under threat and the management authority are confident that the area will continue to hold Unesco world heritage site status,” a statement issued on Monday read.
The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site Management Authority received the department of water affairs report on acid mine drainage (AMD) in the Western Basin and said it explains how AMD will be responded to.
The management authority recognised AMD as a major long-term problem and has been developing a surface and groundwater monitoring system.
“For the past two years we have been monitoring the water in the Cradle of Humankind and we have now compiled a vast amount of data on both the water quality and quantity,” said Cradle of Humankind Management Authority CEO Fana Jiyane.
“To date our research has looked at the status quo, but we are now finalising our report on the way forward, drawing on all the existing data.”
They hoped to complete their report in March, put it out for peer review, and then release it to the public in May.
Acid mine water is formed underground when old mine shafts and tunnels fill up with water. The water oxidises with the sulphide mineral iron pyrite, better known as fool’s gold. It then fills the mine and starts decanting into the environment, in the process known as acid mine drainage.
In February, senior water affairs official Marius Keet explained the levels of acid mine water in three distinct geological basins.
In the eastern basin – located roughly below the town of Nigel – there was currently no risk because the water was 700m below the surface.
There were also no immediate problems with the central basin, directly below Johannesburg.
But the big problem was the western basin – below the Krugersdorp-Randfontein area – where acid mine water had been decanting since 2002.