Taking action on acid mine drainage

The problems related to acid mine drainage (AMD) are going to be with us for decades, if not hundreds, of years to come, so it is time for us all to learn about acid mine drainage and start working out how to deal with it. 

Some of the recent action undertaken by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and other civil society groups, in relation to acid mine drainage:

In December 2009, a group of civil society organisations issued a statement urging government to open up the debate about possible solutions. Download a copy of the statement here: Statement from Civil Society Organizations on AMD

 Read government’s response to civil society: GTT’s response to the Civil Society Statement Here’s Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s reply: ELA Jhb’s letter to GTT

 In January 2010, acid mine water began to flow onto the surface from an old mine shaft on the West Rand, see:http://earthlife.org.za/?p=803,

 In the absence of urgent intervention by the government to address the crisis of AMD, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE), with the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), advised the government that they would institute legal proceedings against the government.

 The government issued a media release in February 2010: Media statement from Dept Water Affairs 11 Feb 2010

Here is LRC’s response: Legal Resources Centre letter to Dept of Water Affairs

On 24 February, the Department of Water Affairs replied: DWA’s response to LRC’s letter of 16 Feb 2010

 Ideas for what individuals and civil society groups can do about acid mine drainage

Raise awareness of the dangers of using the polluted water (even for irrigating vegetables); or of disturbing the mud at the bottom of polluted dams and streams.

Undertake further research into the long-term health impacts of the pollution.

Plan and implement projects to rehabilitate the most affected areas.

Take preventive action to avoid acid mine drainage resulting from future mining operations.

Local government is already struggling to deal with ineffective sewage treatment works.  In many cases they do not have the capacity to deal with AMD as well. National government needs to provide support. The “polluter pays” principle needs to be used to make sure mining companies contribute their share of the costs of the clean up work. Civil society also needs to help – for example, could teams of volunteers be trained to monitor water sources, or help raise funds for clean-up projects?

Ideas for what you can do 

Invite a speaker to inform your group about acid mine drainage, how it affects them personally and what can be done about it:

If you can gather a group of 20 or more people in your area that would like to know more about acid mine drainage, you can contact ELA Johannesburg’s AMD Working Group to arrange for someone to give your group a presentation about the issue. (We would appreciate donations to cover transport costs)

 Express your concern to government officials – and ask them to engage with civil society about this issue, which means disclosing information, and being open about the type of help they need to address the issue:

Write to:

–  Marius Keet, the Regional Director for Water Affairs: KeetM@dwa.gov.za

– Michael Oberholzer, Chairperson of the Government Task Team on Mine Closure and

– Water Management michael.oberholzer@dme.gov.za

– the Deputy Director General of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs ddg@dwaf.gov.za

– your local TV stations and newspapers

If you support a particular political party – let them know that AMD is a crucial issue that needs urgent attention. Write to your local branch and member of parliament.

Share what you know about AMD with others – you never know what impact you may have, for example, knowledge that the local dam may be polluted could stop a child playing in the toxic mud.

Take part in the debate about acid mine drainage on the facebook site ‘Stop acid mine drainage’: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=202902620517&ref=nf

Share your concerns, or appreciation, with the relevant mining companies:

Write to DRD Gold: ask why they have not kept on pumping and taken their responsibilities seriously, like Rand Uranium.

– Regional Engineering Manager: Kevin.kruger@za.drdgold.com;

Write to Rand Uranium, thank them for not stopping their pumping, and ask them what their plans are for the future management and control of acid mine water.

– Senior Consultant in Sustainable Development: Rex.Zorab@randuranium.co.za

Link up with others who share your concern, contact:

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s Acid Mine Drainage Working Group amd.workinggroup@gmail.com


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