R1.2bn for acid mine water

2011-02-24 12:44

South Africa will spend an estimated R1.2 billion to clean up acidic water threatening to spill out from abandoned gold mines under Johannesburg and adjacent areas, a report said today.

The dangerous cocktail of chemicals has been building up in mine shafts dug more than a century ago to tap one of the world’s largest gold deposits and stretches scores of kilometres under Johannesburg.

“The problems posed by acid mine drainage will have implications far into the future, with impacts likely to continue for many years,” said a report by a team of experts released by the water ministry today.

The report recommends building a series of pumping, treatment and monitoring stations starting immediately with pumps in place under Johannesburg by March next year, just months before the acid water is expected to reach environmentally critical levels.

The budget is estimated at R441.7 million for capital expenditure, R121.2 million for yearly operating costs and R626.3 million for long-term costs related to preventing water from flowing into the cavities, the water ministry said.

Acid mine water has plagued derelict mines globally for decades but most of the damage has been in remote areas.

The problem for Johannesburg is that the city was built over its gold mines and the land that could be affected is occupied by some of the country’s biggest firms and its most densely packed townships and suburbs.

The toxic liquid has already been flowing out of mines to the west of the city from what is know as the Western Basin.

Acid mine water is now about 500m below the surface in the Central Basin under Johannesburg, rising on average of 59cm a day, and about 700m below the surface in the Eastern Basin, the report said.

Water accumulating in shafts and tunnels has been reacting with rocks formed about 2.8 billion years ago and triggering chemical reactions that produced sulphuric acid, heavy metals, toxins and radiation.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.