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More clarity needed on AMD measures

The Trade Union UASA welcomes the statement by Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel that Cabinet has at long last accepted the recommendations by the inter-ministerial task team which investigated the issue of acid mine drainage (AMD).

The Trade Union UASA welcomes the statement by Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel that Cabinet has at long last accepted the recommendations by the inter-ministerial task team which investigated the issue of acid mine drainage (AMD).

While we find comfort in the announcement that some decision has finally been taken, we would caution the Minister to not pack away his gumboots just yet. While calculations made by the Geo Sciences Council indicate that AMD will only start decanting in June 2012, many experts indicated that decanting in the central basin will start in February 2012. Only time will tell.

We believe the panic that existed hitherto may dissipate to a large extent, now that we know that certain steps will be taken to ward off a possible disaster.

Before being able to comment fully, we would like to get a better understanding of exactly what the following refers to as stated in the report:

  • Implementing ingress control measures to reduce the rate of flooding and the eventual decanting and pumping volume;
  • Reducing costs to deal with acid mine drainage;
  • Improving water quality management;
  • Removal of salt loads from river systems to be considered in the medium to long term; and
  • Improving monitoring and undertaking research to inform decision making and managing and monitoring other acid mine drainage sources within the Witwatersrand Basin.

What comes to the fore, clearly, is that any and all of the contemplated recommended solutions will require massive amounts of capital which will have to be found somewhere. The amount of R3,6 billion budgeted for this issue by the Minister of Finance in his budget speech today, should to a great extent help to address this challenge.

We will no doubt one day learn from history what the real value of all the income to the state from mining activities has been if we start discounting the cost, both economically and environmentally, of having to deal with AMD since this is clearly going to be a problem for many decades to come.