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January 26, 2011

Published by eljhbadmin at

Misleading statements from Director General of DWA on AMD

In an article in The Sunday Times (Review) (page 5, under “So many questions” 23 January 2011), the Director General (DG) of Department of Water Affairs (DWA), made statements about AMD that contradict credible scientific information about AMD and previous reports on the issue.

 Trevor Balzer (DG, DWA) alleged that the there has been no contamination of the Vaal River catchment area from the Eastern Basin and that only treated mine water goes into the Vaal River from the Eastern Basin. The following suggests otherwise:

  •  For months millions of litres of untreated acid mine drainage (AMD), from Aurora’s Grootvlei Mine on the East Rand, has been flowing in to the Blesbokspruit and indirectly into Rietspruit (part of the Vaal River system) (see other posts on this website about this). This has been widely reported in the media over the last few months.
  •  In addition, a statement to the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, from the former DG of DWA, states: “It is important to note that the underground mine water being pumped in four of these mining basins, notably the Far East and East, Central and West Rand Mining Basins, collectively contribute approximately 5% of the total yield of the Vaal River system, while being responsible for an estimated 20% of the total salinity load, that may include heavy metals.” (Source: Approach towards the management of acid mine drainage (AMD) problems emanating from the underground water basins within the Witwatersrand. DG briefing notes on response to Federation for Sustainable Environment, page 3). (See link to below to see the full report.)

 In The Sunday Times, the DG also commented that lime treatment (neutralization) does not leave radioactive sludge. In fact, lime treatment makes the heavy metals fall out of acid mine water and accumulate in a sludge at the bottom of the stream. In the Witwatersrand area, one of these heavy metals is commonly uranium, which is radioactive. Therefore the sludge will be radioactive. See the FSE’s letter to Mr Balzer given below, also see: ‘Ministers catching up with AMD?’ 

 We can only assume that these statements of the DG of DWA were innocent mistakes. The FSE has written to the DG to point out these errors and inform him of some key reports that the former DG of DWA (then DWAF) sent to the FSE (see links to these below). Download FSE’s letter here: FSE RESPONSE TO MR TREVOR BALZER RE SUNDAY TIMES REPORT

 Given the recent changes in the department, perhaps new DWA officials are unaware of some previous reports on AMD. These reports clearly show that DWA was working on plans to deal with the AMD issue. One wonders if the Inter-Ministerial Committee on AMD is aware of them. You can download them here:

Mar 2009 Notes to FSE re. DWAF’s AMD management approach

Feb 2009 Status and management of AMD, DWAF report to DG

Mar 2009 Summary of reports on AMD from DWAF

Anti-nuclear action in Cape Town
January 7, 2011
Civil society demands action on acid mine drainage
January 26, 2011

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