Action on acid mine drainage becoming ‘urgent’

2011-06-28 11:41

Rand Uranium CEO John Munro today called for much faster action and a redoubling of efforts to find a solution to the acid mine drainage (AMD) problem on the Witwatersrand.

“Unfortunately today, the challenge remains. There’s been a huge amount of work done and a lot of talk and engagement, but we aren’t acting on the ground fast enough,” he told the National Assembly’s water and environmental committee during public hearings on the matter.

The seriousness of the problem had been recognised long ago and it was becoming clear it was a legacy issue.

“And spending all our time finding culprits may well be a waste of resources,” Munro said.
There were new operators in the area. These companies were brand new.

“They simply could not have created this problem. As a result, burdening these new companies with the sins of the past is simply unsustainable. These companies will collapse.

“So not will we not have a solution, we won’t have mining in the Central, Western and Eastern Basins.

“So we lose a whole lot of jobs and we believe that is not the right way to go,” he said.
There was an accepted principle that the polluter paid. Companies that had not created the problem simply could not be expected to use their shareholders’ money or creditors’ money to solve other people’s problems.

“However, these companies have [nevertheless] committed very substantial amounts of resources to solving this problem, and will continue to do that.”

A solution was presented by the mining companies in 2009/10.

It had to be recognised that this solution had to be funded by someone and that it would be hard to find the culprits responsible for the problem.

“It’s more than likely that they are all gone and those companies no longer exist. And even if you can find some companies you’ll never hold them accountable because of the complexity of acid mine drainage and how underground mining works and how the AMD actually is created.”

The industry believed the best solution to the problem was to find an economically viable solution, he said.

AMD was a valuable resource that could be turned into a scarce resource – potable water.

“If we do that, we believe an economically viable business can be created. This business can attract external funding and that has been demonstrated by the Western Utilities Corporation (WUC) feasibility work undertaken.

“So, if we can attract independent capital to this problem, make it an attractive business for them, there needn’t be reliance on the state or mining companies.”

This would be a long-term sustainable economically viable and attractive business.

After sewage, AMD was the next best source of potable water.

Unfortunately, the industry had been unsuccessful in presenting its case as to why the WUC solution should be taken forward.

Munro warned that the situation was urgent and the window was closing.

For example, mines in the Central Basin were being flooded, and if they went out of business they simply could not be helpful in finding a solution.

“So the industry is under threat from AMD, as is the environment, as are some people. So it’s important that we step up our activities to get this solution in place as soon as possible,” he said.

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