Acid mine drainage

is the flow, or seepage, of polluted water from old mining areas. Depending on the area, the water may contain toxic heavy metals and radioactive particles. These are dangerous for people’s health, as well as plants and animals.

Acid mine drainage on the Witwatersrand has reached a crisis point. This is because some mining companies allow acid mine water to flow into streams, dams and sources of  groundwater.

On the West Rand, toxic water has already destroyed life in the Tweelopiespruit  and the Robinson Lake near Randfontein. Even some borehole water is polluted. In some areas the water has polluted the soil, so people cannot grow vegetables. The Tweelopiespruit is part of the Crocodile River system and the Limpopo River catchment area.

According to a report (December 2010) commissioned by the Inter-ministerial Committee on Acid Mine Drainage the mining companies and government have until June 2012 to control acid mine drainage before the toxic water under central Johannesburg begins to flood the tourist mine in Gold Reef City, with estimates of the water reaching the surface – possibly initially in the Boksburg area – in March 2013. On the East Rand, as pumping of water from the Grootvlei mine near Springs stopped in early 2011, estimates suggest that acid mine drainage will flow onto the surface of the ground near Nigel central business district in three or five years – if action is not taken. The Blesbokspruit and the Marievale Bird Sanctuary are are already contaminated with toxic mine water.

For some recent photos of acid mine drainage near Meadowlands and Diepkloof, Soweto see: (photos courtesy of Kieron Crawley, April 2011)

Want to find out more?  For some fact sheets and useful articles about acid mine drainage see:

See: An action plan for acid mine drainage for more about the report commissioned by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Acid Mine Drainage.

The most recent news items for acid mine drainage on this site are given below, for a complete list search on Acid Mine Drainage. Also see this WISE (World Information Service on Energy) website page for a useful digest of news:

What can be done about acid mine drainage?

In 2010, civil society groups and the media helped to get the issue of acid mine drainage higher up the political agenda. In response to media pressure, an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Acid Mine Drainage was formed, which commissioned a report by a Team of Experts. The report was made publicly available on 24 February 2011, for a copy of the report, and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s review of it, including the Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s detailed response to it, see this link: An action plan for acid mine drainage

For some of the work that Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and other civil society groups have been doing, and for ideas for what individuals can do, see:

To find out about Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s Acid Mine Drainage Working Group, see:

Children's health at risk as they play in Donaldson Dam, stirring up mud that contains toxic elements

Children’s health at risk as they play in Donaldson Dam, stirring up mud that contains toxic elements

Acid mine water on the West Rand goldfields (Photo: Henk Coetzee)

Acid mine water on the West Rand goldfields (Photo: Henk Coetzee)