Measures to curb acid mine drainage

20 December 2010

A team of experts advising the South African government on acid mine drainage has recommended a series of short-term measures to address the problem. The measures are benchmarked against countries that have experienced similar problems, such as Canada and the United States.

They include pumping and neutralisation of acid mine drainage, enforcing compliance, regular inspections, and prevention of ingress as short-term measures to maintain water levels at least below the relevant environmental critical level.

The government’s inter-ministerial committee on acid mine drainage said in a statement on Friday that it had received an updated report from the team of experts on Wednesday.

The scope of the team’s work included assessing work done to date as well as available solutions and technology, and proposing integrated short-, medium- and long-term solutions.

It also included assessing costs viability, as well as exploring possible partnerships with the private sector.

The committee said the government has acknowledged and accepts that acid mine drainage is a problem that South Africa needs to address urgently.

This, the committee said, should be done in a co-ordinated manner between a range of stakeholders that included the mining industry, with the government always play a leading role.

The team’s report advocated for the three priority basins (North, Central and Western) to have implementation plans that included pumping and neutralisation of acid mine drainage, enforcing compliance, regular inspections, and prevention of ingress as short-term measures to maintain water levels at least below the relevant environmental critical level.

The committee believed the proposals were founded on scientific research and engineering instead of simplistic, quick-fix solutions.

Some areas needing revisiting included the liability of polluters and costing of implementation.

The recommendations were benchmarked on some countries that had experienced acid mine drainage problems, such as Canada and the United States.

The report would be presented to the Cabinet early in January. The Cabinet would then determine the way forward.

Sapa