The combined cost of the emergency works and long-term solution projects to clean Johannesburg’s acid mine water is currently estimated at about R12 billion over the next few years, but it will come at a cost to the consumer.
Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane said yesterday that the purpose of the long-term solution was to further treat the water by removing sulphates, making it suitable for commercial use as either industrial or potable water.
“The long-term solution will therefore turn the acid mine drainage problem into a long-term sustainable solution by producing safe water,” her department said. It has taken five years and R225 million to stabilise the flow of acid water from abandoned mines in Gauteng, which had put the region’s water supply under severe threat, in the first phase of protecting Johannesburg’s water supply.
Now that that had been accomplished, it was time for phase two, Mokonyane said at the launch of the long-term solution to acid mine drainage (AMD) at the AMD Central Basin in Germiston, east of Johannesburg.
The minister said 33% of the cost for phase two would be covered by Johannesburg water users, the TimesLive website reported. The rest would be covered by mining companies. Phase two (the long-term approach) aimed to turn acid mine drainage into fully treated water, which would “substantially” in crease water supply to the Vaal River system and meet the needs of South Africa’s economic hub, Mokonyane said.
Mining has taken place in the underground mining basins of the East-, central- and West Rand since the discovery of gold in 1886. It was the driving force of the economic growth and development of Gauteng and the backbone of the economy of South Africa for many years.
During this time, the more than 120 mines were required to pump out the water that had entered the mines to make mining conditions safe. As the mines were worked out and abandoned, the tunnels, drives and shafts started filling up with water.
The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, a state-owned entity under the department, has a mandate to install pumps, manage the treatment plant and convey the treated water to its end destinations.