Johannesburg – Environmental officials are working around the clock to curb the potential dangers posed by the impact of acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand mining area, government news agency BuaNews reported on Monday.
An expert team appointed by Cabinet to advise the inter-ministerial committee on the dangers of acid mine drainage to Gauteng warned earlier this year of the need to avert an impending crisis.
The team, drawn from the Council for Geosciences and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), among others, identified various risk categories, including the contamination of surface and ground water required for agricultural and human consumption.
Their recommendations were housed in an acid mine drainage report.
According to a statement issued by the Department of Water Affairs this week, “important progress” had been made by the state in implementing the immediate and short-term actions recommended in the acid mine drainage report.
BuaNews reported that Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa had also tasked state-owned Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority to oversee installation of pumps to extract water from the mines to onsite treatment plants and construction of an on-site mine water treatment plant in each basin.
There will also be an installation of infrastructure to convey treated water to nearby watercourses and the facilitation of the best model, which shall be proposed to the Department of Water Affairs, for the operations of the pumping stations and treatment works.
Treasury had made a budget allocation of R225m in the next three years toward the design and building of an acid mine water treatment facility, R5m of which would be spent on a five-year plan to deal with acid mine drainage.
The statement said recent “collaborative efforts” between the department and Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority had resulted in an investigation of existing mine water treatment infrastructure in the western and central basin mining areas, and of potential institutional arrangements with the mining companies that were active in these basins.
“The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, by way of tender protocol, appointed a professional service provider to provide an intensive appraisal of the available infrastructure and to formulate appropriate engineering options to adequately resolve the acid mine drainage problem,” said the department.
The highest priority is being given to the development of solutions to reduce, if not eradicate, the surface decant of acid mine drainage in the West Rand area.
Also of high priority was the development of measures focused on ensuring that underground mine water levels in the central basin of the mines did not reach the environmental critical level, which would pose a threat.
The department said pumps for the central basin had been procured and were set to be delivered by the end of July.
Other engineering requirements in terms of construction and electrical infrastructure would follow.
In the eastern basin, the department was awaiting final announcements by the liquidators that were administering the Aurora Mining Company.
“The situation is being closely monitored and, if no real solution is provided, government intervention will be unavoidable,” the department added.