Acid mine drainage affects 4 provinces

Johannesburg – The acid mine water problem affects small parts of the North West, the Free State and the Northern Cape in addition to Gauteng, the province’s local government MEC said on Thursday

“Gauteng is the heaviest affected province due to the mines operating from some time back… but it touches on the North West, the Free State and the Northern Cape,” Humphrey Mmemezi said at a media briefing in Boksburg.

“These are mainly the provinces affected,” he said.

The West Rand, near Mogale, was the worst affected area in Gauteng.

Mmemezi said the problem was being tackled at local, provincial and national level.

His department and the water affairs department visited the West Rand on Wednesday to “share plans” on how the problem would be handled.

In a report presented to the Cabinet in February, a group of experts found that millions of litres of rapidly-rising acid mine water under Johannesburg would start flooding the lower levels of the Gold Reef City tourist mine early next year.

Environmentally critical

Shortly thereafter, this acid mine drainage, as it is known, would pass through an “environmentally critical” level – with potentially devastating consequences – before starting to flow out on the surface.

The report was titled Mine Water Management in the Witwatersrand Gold Fields with Special Emphasis on Acid Mine Drainage.

It warned that if the water is allowed to continue to rise, it would start “decanting in low-lying areas in the vicinity of the ERPM Mine in Boksburg and possibly elsewhere across the Witwatersrand”.

Before this, it would “flood the underground mine operated as a tourist attraction at Gold Reef City”.

This could happen by March next year.

The government has set aside millions to tackle the problem.

Mmemezi said a task team was advising the inter-ministerial committee on the problem. He said there were “clear steps already” in place to tackle it.

He said the situation could not be seen as a “crisis”.

“Water levels are not a level where it is a threat to us,” he said.

Mmemezi was briefing the media after mayors reported to him on their terms in office, which conclude in May.

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