South African coal mines operated by companies such as Glencore and Anglo American are polluting parts of Mpumalanga as they fail to comply with their water licenses, according to an environmental group.
The water use licenses, which also include mines run by South32 and Exxaro Resources, were assessed in a report by the Centre for Environmental Rights. The study found "gross violations and water pollution by the operators," it said.
South Africa, the most industrialised nation on the continent, uses coal for more than 90% of its electricity generation. While environmental groups have raised awareness of premature deaths caused by power plant pollution, the new study found "massive failures" by the Department of Water & Sanitation to effectively regulate water licenses.
"The pollution of South Africa’s precious water
resources occurs on a particularly egregious scale in areas with high levels of
mining activity," according to the report. "The mining of coal is
particularly harmful, with acid mine drainage from coal mines polluting surface
and groundwater with acid, salts and metals."
Glencore, Anglo American, Exxaro and South32 each said they would review the findings before responding in more detail. The Department of Water didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.