Solve acid mine water crisis - minister

2012-03-22 17:30

Johannesburg - There needs to be a collective effort by all South Africans to find a long-term solution to the acid mine drainage (AMD) crisis, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Thursday.

"A call is made to all of South Africa - experts, community members, women and children - let's focus on solutions," she told reporters in Randfontein, on the West Rand.

"Everyone who has a solution, we are opening up a process to listen. Let's focus on what we should do as a collective. We can't say that everyone has the perfect solution, but we will try to find something holistic."

Molewa was speaking ahead of the commissioning of an upgraded Rand Uranium treatment plant to deal with AMD on the West Rand.

"Today is World Water Day... We therefore thought it appropriate to come to come here to the Witwatersrand to show you the effects that decades of reckless and poorly regulated mining activities have had on our precious water resources," she said.

Nationwide emergency

AMD is the flow or seepage of polluted water from old mining areas. Depending on the area, the water often contains toxic heavy metals and radioactive particles, or is acidic. Contact with it can affect the health of humans, animals and plants.

The upgraded treatment plant, which will be commissioned in April, will deal with almost 30 million litres of AMD that decants into the Tweelopiespruit daily.

The affected water eventually flows into the Crocodile river. Only 12 million litres are currently being treated.

Molewa said the upgrade was part of a nationwide emergency initiative to deal with AMD.

"In April last year I directed the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority to undertake emergency works... the work undertaken constitutes phase one of the long-term solution to deal with the problem," she said.

The short-term treatment rids the drainage of all toxic chemicals, but retains high sodium levels.

In central Johannesburg, some of the sodium-rich water eventually makes its way into the Vaal river. The river can only tolerate the current sodium levels until 2014.


Molewa said her department had commissioned a study into a long-term solution for AMD in the east, central and west Rand underground mining basins.

"A team of consultants will be responsible for conducting this study over the next 13 months."

Molewa said the government intended solving the AMD crisis.

"Even though the current government inherited the problem... we are intensifying our efforts and making noteworthy progress. We are looking for a solution to a problem that happened many, many years before we were here."

She said her department would work at solving the crisis even though there was a shortfall in the budget allocated to deal with AMD.

"It will cost R900m to R1bn to deal with the short-term solution. The current budget is R433m," Molewa said.

"We are dealing with the Treasury, and they are sympathetic. There is no need to worry because whatever happens, we know the Treasury is with us."

She said local mines were also working on the crisis.

"Some mines are saying they are looking for a solution as well. This is something that needs to be resolved, because if it isn't, people's lives will be put in danger."

  • Erich - 2012-03-22 18:08

    Madam Minister, I think you are way behind the times. This pathetic wake-call should have been made many months ago. Various knowledgeable experts and NGO's raised alarm a long time ago.I do not doubt for one minute that the previous government attributed to this problem but would like to know why the ANC did absolutely nothing in the past 16 years to address this problem. How much more time do you need? Another 16 years and then it will be too late.

      mundu.olewega - 2012-03-22 19:14

      Actually...acid mine water is a natural occurance, which needs to be MANAGED. The previous government knew that and managed it, or at least had the mining companies manage it. This useless ANC government let it go and used money meant for this type of thing to line their own pockets. They even ignored it after numerous warnings. What a useless cunch of bunts!

  • Alwyn - 2012-03-22 18:20

    What a lot of crap! Ans she call herself a Minister?

  • Paul - 2012-03-22 18:22

    And they've known about this how long? Last year they fired the guy who wrote the report on this, now they're trying to force everyone to accept joint responsibility. Nice one.

      pws69 - 2012-03-22 18:59

      W've know about it for 50 odd years. The reason the general public did not know was because the NATS had it under control. Then these palookas get voted into power.

      Chez - 2012-03-23 11:05

      @pws69. Had it under control or under wraps? You know they weren't as well behaved as they led us to believe right? Why do you think Joburg airport was built in about the the very worst place weather wise? Just saying!

  • pws69 - 2012-03-22 18:58

    The DA raised the red flag on AMD over 5 years ago. Gareth Morgan, DA MP, has tried to put this on the roll for discussion in parliament 3 times in the last three years, to no avail. It is almost as if the ANC wanted to create an emergency, to bypass tender regulations.

  • psebe - 2012-03-22 19:14

    The Oppenheimer's and their brothers are enjoying the fruition of this crisis somewhere overseas and Sons and daughters of the soil are paying with their own lives once more,even though their grandfathers were brutally killed by such mines,AND AS USUAL SOME HIGHLY INTELLIGENT BENEFICIARIES AND DEFENDERS OF THE WEST WILL BLAME "ANC"..never blames their bosses for anything only ANC.

      Piet - 2012-03-22 20:39

      Yes, but the ANC had an opportunity to do something about it. Did they, no they fired the CSIR scientist that wrote a rapport on it. Typical ANC cluelessness, and it seems you agree with them.

      riettevr - 2012-03-22 23:57

      Hehehe, maybe you should do some research before you blame whites for this one. Remember the pamodsi mine crisis.... Its directly causing the overflow in the rand area. Remember its owners? A certain zuma family member and a mandela, where were the whites wrong in this one. You're BENEFICIARIES of those overflowing mines are not white. And you are right about sons and daughters paying with their own lives. Just this time their own brothers and sisters are doing it to them. This is really bad and I really hope somebody get a solution. I pray for all of us.

      pws69 - 2012-03-23 01:41

      The NATS controlled this. They ENSURED that the mines pumped the water out of the mines to prevent AMD. Today, the ANC has so few mine inspectors that the work load is such that each mine inspector literally has 15 minutes to assess each mine, if they worked normal working hours. So yes, it IS ANC INCOMPETENCE that has resulted in this situation. It was ANC MPs that REFUSED to discuss this over the last three years simply because a DA politician raised it. Take off your ANC rose tinted glasses for once and see the TRUTH. The ANC CANNOT govern. That is an indisputable fact. YOUR grandchildren will die because you are too blind to see this.

  • diego.singer - 2012-03-22 19:17

    To many people worry about the acid in the water but similar but worst things happen at Granite Factories spilling the toxic slurry into the storm drains most of the time. So ask youself: Is Granite Toxic? Yes, very much so! There are three main dangers, dust ingestion, dust inhalation, and heavy metal leaching caused by acidic food or drink. Granite contains Polonium, Lead, Plutonium, Uranium, and Thallium. Other heavy metals like Arsenic, Mercury, Tungsten, Cadmium and Vanadium are also present. Heavy metal leaching is by far the worst danger. Granite contains three main sources of both heavy metals and radiation, Potassium 40, Thorium, and Uranium. Keep in mind that all three of these elements are unstable, they do decay constantly into other elements. Thorium is more of a danger to elaborators than homeowners, if aerosolized or present in dust form, it can lead to increased risk of cancers of the lungs, pancreas, and blood. If ingested, there is an increased risk of liver diseases. Here is a link to a decay chain article, look up the thorium decay chain.20 radioactive particles emitted per atom of Thorium present. The long half lives don't matter, some are decaying at all times. Note that many of the steps in the decay chain are toxic heavy metals, Polonium, Plutonium (yes, that Plutonium), Uranium, Thallium, and Lead. The rest of the steps are just radioactive! Granite has more poisonous substances in it than any other countertop material, by far.

  • mundu.olewega - 2012-03-22 19:17

    And now watch as they appoint a BEE Company to study the problem and another BEE Company to sort it out....10 years will pass and billions of Rands will be pocketed by the ANC cronies and the problem will be 10x worse. Cry The Beloved country.

  • Piet - 2012-03-22 20:29

    Another major crisis - another clueless ANC minister makes a statement - problem solved - life goes on.

  • Diaan - 2012-03-22 23:19

    Why dont we pipe all this toxic water to all these clueless goverment officials homes ?? Let them drink it . the rest of the country have to suffer the consequences , why not them

  • Koos - 2012-03-23 00:43

    What crisis Edna? The expert were fired, remember that? Was it because he was white or because of the message?

  • Dave - 2012-03-23 04:03

    Well I must say this has a lot to do with affirmative action. I know of two individuals with over 20 years experience in water game, that were replaced...Since then the towns they were responsible for have had major problems with water quality. This BEE/affirmative action is not working, we should rather train the new comers and let them work side by side with experience people. They must rise to the standard, not we lower the standard. The minister is pleading for anyone to come forward, well damn you should have thought about that before chasing most of the experts away.

  • jdvos - 2012-03-23 05:08

    I remember watching this on Carte Blanche a good few years ago now, and the experts predicted all of this would happen. I hope it gets sorted.

  • Helmut - 2012-03-23 07:41

    is the s..t finally htting the fan? as usual the ANC initially dismissed the fact that there was a problem. Why? because they did not and still do not have a clue how to tackle the problem! Pull finger and finally take some action like consutling with other countries where they dealt with similar problems successfully. But that is not going to happen, because our government wants to dish out advice, but not ask for it and if they do ask for it they don't understand it - incompetent lot!

  • Hugh - 2012-03-23 08:22

    One thing about being Black in a Black country is that those in power have memories that suit their brain power. They remember what they want and forget all else. It is as if in their minds being Black means they can be as stupid as they like then all is forgiven and any critism is held to be racist.

      ludlowdj - 2012-03-23 12:08

      Of course its part of their culture. Africans at the time of colonization had no written history and the history being presented is selective word of mouth accounts that have been changed over the years to suit the storyteller. Western races do the same thing, but are more restricted by the documented history that we have.

  • Mohsin - 2012-03-23 11:12


  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-23 11:59

    "Even though the current government inherited the problem..." As usual the ANC deny's all responsibility and lays the blame for its own failing on the dreaded white man. The truth is the ANC was informed of the problem 14 years before the first waters started to decant, and had they of made this a priority the facilities would have been in place to contain the the AMD below the level of the fresh water basins and prevented what will be the eventual destabilization of the foundations of buildings due to seepage. The solution is of course the building of several large capacity water treatment facilities that have the capability to pump and purify the water to safe levels before releasing it into the environment. These facilities could quiet happily supply the entire country with the daily water requirements of the entire country without the need to use rivers and rain water, essentially leaving our natural water supplies untouched, of course the biggest prohibiting factor is the costs which will of course be passed on to the consumer as normal. The government of course tend to deliver below standard facilities as a matter of routine, the desalination projects being a prime example, with the water output still having a salty under taste even though internationally the systems produce water so pure as to be compared to bottled water.

  • derry.burge - 2012-03-24 03:13

    Who does one get hold of to "offer the solution" to the Government to? We have tried for over 6 years and nobody comes back. Our system is a self contained unit, requires no chemicals and creats it's own energy. It is monitered by computerised system and backup. Recommendations from distinguished persons who observed tests...yet still when we approach Govt we just hit a brick wall. We havan affordable, highly effective product which will solve not only mine water acidity and sewerage watr but many other water and health issues....they announce on TV a plan to bring in "entrepeneurs" HOW and WHERE??? The first test container will be able to be set up within a maximum of 3 months. Let me know. There is NO product n the WORLD that can offer what this system

  • lucas.b.moloto - 2012-09-11 15:49

    AMD is fast threatening the Western Basin. A crisis is looming.

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