MAC: Mines and Communities

South African miners must pay 67% of acid drainage clean-up costs

Published by MAC on 2016-05-25
Source: Mining.com, Reuters (2016-05-19)

South Africa's mining output reporgedly plunged by 18% this month - allowing the country's Chamber of Mines to argue it shouldn't have to bear the brunt of costs (57%) of treating acidic waters in the Johannesburg mining belt.

Acid Mine Drainage has been a long standing environmental and human rights issue in the country. Not only does it create a major pollution of fresh water sources, but also leads to the the release of toxic heavy metals which bio-accumulate and concentrate in living organisms - from fish through to human beings [See: Acid mine drainage has Jo'burg quaking] .

Arguing that all this dirty business is in the distant past, and it cannot be held responsible for such derelictions is, of course, not a unique preserve of South Africa's mining industry.

Nor is "crying poverty", as a pretext for failing to do the honourable thing.

The Professor of Governance at Wits University claims: "The rehabilitation funds that should have provided for these [clean-up] costs have...often largely disappeared with very little accountability."

If this is so, who then should now be investigated and held accountable for what may have been well be criminal acts?

Need the government look much further than mining firms theselves, and their bosom buddies?

For previous article on MAC see: South Africa: how Johannesburg’s townships are paying for its mining past

South African miners to pay 67% of acid drainage clean-up costs

Cecilia Jamasmie

http://www.mining.com/south-african-miners-to-pay-67-of-acid-drainage-clean-up-costs/

19 May 2016

South Africa is planning to charge mining companies about 67% of the cost for cleaning up toxic water pollution caused by their century-long operations in Gauteng, the country’s richest province that includes Johannesburg.

"The government will pay for two-thirds of the cost by collecting money from mining companies through a new environmental levy."

The Water Ministry said Wednesday the long-term plan to treat acid mine drainage will cost as much as 12 billion rand ($760 million) and be implemented by February 2020.

The authority added that users would pay for a third of the cost, with the rest coming from the government, which in turn will collect money from mining companies through an environmental levy.

Acid mine drainage (AMD) is the outflow of acidic metal rich water formed by the reaction between the water and rock containing sulphur-bearing minerals in mine sites. It especially occurs in metal and coal operations and often the water supplies that are affected end up developing pH levels similar to those of battery acid, rendering the water harmful to humans as well animal and plant life.

"This long-term intervention will therefore turn the AMD problem into a long-term sustainable solution by producing fully treated water," Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said in the statement.

Roger Baxter, CEO of the country's Chamber of Mines said levies are not the solution, Bdlive reports. He did comment, however, on the impact the charge would have on the operations of its members, which include AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s No.3 gold producer, and Sibanye Gold, South Africa’s largest producer of the precious metal.

Acid mine water in the country is considered a legacy of 120 years of gold mining in the Witwatersrand Basin, the source of about a third of all the world’s gold.


SA plans levy on mines to tackle acid mine water pollution

Mining firms say the charges would put the ailing industry under further financial strain.

Mfuneko Toyana

Reuters

19 May 2016

South African mining firms say plans by government to charge them two-thirds of the cost for treating water pollution resulting from their operations are unfair and would put the ailing industry under further financial strain.

South Africa, one of the world’s biggest metals producers, has been hit by a slide in commodities prices that has come on top of widespread labour unrest among miners. Mining output in May plunged by 18%, the most on record.

“Any further financial pressures would certainly threaten the sustainability of the industry,” said the South African Chamber of Mines’s executive for environment, Nikisi Lesufi.

Lesufi said the chamber also opposed the levy because mining companies had adhered to the laws and regulations that were in place at the time.

“It is the industry’s view that AMD legacy issues are the responsibility of the state,” Lesufi said, adding that it could not comment on the design and implementation of the levy because had not been privy to the department’s plans.

Acid mine drainage (AMD) results from the outflow of acidic water from mines, and often affected water supplies develop pH levels similar to those of battery acid, rendering the water harmful to humans as well animal and plant life.

South Africa’s water ministry on Wednesday said it would charge mining firms 67% of the cost for treating polluted water emanating from their century-long operations in Johannesburg’s mining belt.

Water is already scarce in South Africa, which is in the midst of its worst drought in over 100 years as an El-Nino weather pattern has caused rainfall levels to plummet.

Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the cost to government would be R600 million ($38 million) a year, and that government would cover the anticipated recoveries from the mining sector prior to the implementation of the policy.

“It will be difficult for government to find mines still standing that can pay this proposed AMD levy. Many have simply closed down,” said professor of governance at Wits University Mike Muller.

“The rehabilitation funds that should have provided for these costs have also often largely disappeared with very little accountability.”

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