“In light of the serious challenges with AMD in the Witwatersrand, the pumping and treatment of mine water is critical and should be implemented in the Western, Central and Eastern Basins as a matter of urgency,” said Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, the co-chairperson of the Inter Ministerial Committee formed to look at the AMD issue.
“Although the partial treatment of mine water to neutralise acidity and remove metals will be accepted in the short-term, it is important that in the medium to long term, mine water needs to be treated to a quality suitable for direct or indirect use. The Department of Water Affairs will conduct a feasibility study to determine the most appropriate long term use of the treated water,” said Molewa.
A range of solutions to the problems faced have been identified as well as the need to implement appropriate solutions to address problems at specific sites.
Some of the recommendations approved by Cabinet include the construction of an emergency treatment plant in the Western Basin to partially treat uncontrolled AMD decants and construction of pumping infrastructure to prevent AMD decants to protect the environmental critical level (ECL) at 150 meters.
In order to protect the environment in the Central Basin by maintaining water levels at or below the ECL, pumping infrastructure with appropriate water treatment should immediately be implemented. Discussions with other stakeholders should take place in respect of the possibility of pumping the mine water to a level that will protect the gold reserves. The refurbishment of the existing neutralization plant should be considered.
The reinstatement of pumping and treatment of mine water in the Eastern Basin should be investigated as a matter of urgency.
Steps must be implemented to reduce the ingress of water into the underground workings, as far as is possible. This will reduce the volumes of water which need to be pumped and treated and consequently reduce the operational costs of AMD management.
Improved monitoring of mine water, groundwater, surface water, subsidence and other geotechnical impacts of mine flooding and seismicity is required. It is recommended that a multi-institution monitoring committee be established to facilitate the implementation of the required monitoring programmes.
The implementation of an environmental levy to be paid by operating mines to cover the costs of the legacies of past mining needs to be investigated and implemented, if feasible.
Minister Molewa further said: “As part of the implementation plan, which officials are working on, a notice will be published in terms of Section 19 of the National Water Act to previous and existing mining companies in the Central and Eastern basins, preventing these mines from polluting the water resources as a result of their activities.
In respect of the Western Basin mines, directives in terms of Section 20 of the National Water Act will be issued and the department will continue to remedy the situation and claim from the responsible mining companies for the expenses incurred in the remedial process as far as is possible”. – BuaNews