Proposed 'water tax' unfair - ratepayers' association

2016-05-19 18:13

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Johannesburg – Civil society organisations on Thursday criticised government’s move to make the public pay one-third of an acid mine drainage clean-up project in Gauteng.

"All these irritations in the country with people burning things, and we must fork out billions more? It is unfair," Independent Ratepayers’ Association of SA spokesperson Isak Berg said.

He said they would go to court and stage peaceful protests to oppose having to pay for the mining industry’s errors. 

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on Wednesday announced the second phase of an acid mining drainage clean-up project in Germiston, on the East Rand. The mining sector would pay 67% for the three treatment plants in Gauteng. National Treasury would cover the cost and then recover it through an environmental levy.

The public would contribute the remaining 33% through water levies. The project was expected to cost between R10bn and R12bn and was scheduled to be up and running by February 2020.

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment said if Treasury intended paying the 67%, by implication it would be the taxpayer who would pay. The public had, however, played no part in the polluting.

Spokesperson Mariette Liefferink said she did not think mining companies would be able to foot the bill.

"Most of these mining companies will simply declare bankruptcy and abandon. It is just not viable for these companies to carry these costs. We would have welcomed more interaction from the minister’s office on this aspect."

The pumping and treatment of acid mining drainage would have to continue for hundreds of years.

"If a mine closes, the responsibility will once again fall onto the state. Will the state have sufficient funding to continue to pump and treat the mine water?" she asked.

The first phase of the clean-up, implemented in April 2011, was an "emergency works" project - an interim remedy until a permanent and sustainable solution was developed. The treatment plants were the second phase.

Acid mine water is a legacy of 120 years of gold mining on the Witwatersrand. Old shafts and tunnels fill up with water. When the mineral pyrite - better known as fool's gold - reacts with water and oxygen, sulphuric acid is produced. This decants into the environment - a process known as acid mine drainage.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  water  |  drought

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