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AMD AND

AGRICULTURE
Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is currently the main pollutant of surface
water in the mid-Atlantic region. AMD is caused when water flows over or
through sulfur-bearing materials forming solutions of net acidity. AMD
comes mainly from abandoned coal mines and currently active mining.

Acid Mine Drainage (or AMD) in the Witwatersrand, due to abandoned


mining practices is a well-publicized occurrence. Evidence exists that
water, already a scarce resource in South Africa, is contaminated by
acidic water, a by- product of a century of mining practices. When
mines ceased to be productive, they were closed down. Consequently
pumping water out of the Witwatersrand rocks ceased. The
Witwatersrand rocks not only contains the sought after minerals such
as gold on which the South African economy was built, but also Pyrite,
which when exposed to water and oxygen chemically reacts to form
acidic water. Since 2002, acidic water is decanting in some areas of the
Witwatersrand damaging the immediate eco-system. The acidic water
is also contaminating the Witwatersrands fresh groundwater sources
situated in huge dolomite aquifers underneath the Witwatersrand.
The incidence of AMD and the South African governments response is
a highly contentious issue. The evidence clearly shows that the natural
environment in the Witwatersrand is paying a high price. Agriculture in
the Gauteng province relies heavily on water resources that are
contaminated by AMD. The impact of AMD on agriculture in Gauteng
province proves to be negative. Insufficient research data exists to
determine the socio-economic impacts.

By: Henry JL Badenhorst

A study
regarding the
impact of Acid
Mine Drainage
(AMD) in the
Witwatersrand
on agriculture
in the Gauteng
province of
South Africa.

RESEARCH REPORT
TITLE: AMD and agriculture - A study regarding the impact of Acid
Mine Drainage (AMD) in the Witwatersrand on agriculture in the Gauteng
province of South Africa.

FULL NAME: Henry J.L. Badenhorst

Contact details: henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com

DATE OF SUBMISSION: 21/12/2011


Abstract: Acid Mine Drainage (or AMD) in the Witwatersrand, due to abandoned mining
practices is a well-publicized occurrence. Evidence exists that water, already a scarce
resource in South Africa, is contaminated by acidic water, a by- product of a century of
mining practices. When mines ceased to be productive, they were closed down.
Consequently pumping water out of the Witwatersrand rocks ceased. The Witwatersrand
rocks not only contains the sought after minerals such as gold on which the South African
economy was built, but also Pyrite, which when exposed to water and oxygen chemically
reacts to form acidic water. Since 2002, acidic water is decanting in some areas of the
Witwatersrand damaging the immediate eco-system. The acidic water is also contaminating
the Witwatersrands fresh groundwater sources situated in huge dolomite aquifers
underneath the Witwatersrand. The incidence of AMD and the South African governments
response is a highly contentious issue. The evidence clearly shows that the natural
environment in the Witwatersrand is paying a high price. Agriculture in the Gauteng
province relies heavily on water resources that are contaminated by AMD. The impact of
AMD on agriculture in Gauteng province proves to be negative. Insufficient research data
exists to determine the socio-economic impacts.

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Abbreviations
ABA African Bush Adventures
AMD Acid Mine Drainage
ARC Agricultural Research Commission
CGS Council for Geosciences
CSIR Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
DEAT Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
DME Department of Minerals and Energy
DWAF Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
ECL - Environmental critical level
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
FSE Foundation for a Sustainable Environment
FWR Far West Rand
GDP Gross Domestic Product
IMC Inter-Ministerial Committee
MAP Mean Annual Precipitation
MAR Mean Annual Runoff
NGO Non Governmental Organisation
NNR National Nuclear Regulator
KGR Krugersdorp Game Reserve
SABC South African Broadcasting Corporation
SAR Sodium Absorption Ratio
TDS - Total Dissolved Solids
TWQR Target Water Quality Range
WRC Water research Commission
KOSH basin - Klerksdorp, Orkney, Stilfontein and Hartbeestfontein

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Definition of key concepts


Acid mine drainage or AMD, forms in mining environments when ore and
waste materials, containing sulphide minerals, such as pyrite, are exposed to
water and oxygen. (Report to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on AMD.
2010:20). In order for pyrite to oxidise, both oxygen and water must be
present. Water serves not only as a reactant, but also as a reaction medium and
a product transport solvent. (Forstner & Salomans, in Report to the InterMinisterial Committee on AMD. 2010:20)
Acid mine drainage is produced when sulphide-bearing material is exposed to
oxygen and water. The production of AMD usually, but not exclusively
occurs in iron sulphide-aggregated rocks. Although this process occurs
naturally, mining promotes AMD formation simply by increasing the quantity
of sulphides exposed. (Akcil & Koldas, in Oelofse. 2007: 618-619).
Releases of AMD have low pH, high electrical conductivity, elevated
concentrations of iron, aluminium and manganese and raised concentrations of
toxic heavy metals. The acid produced dissolves salts and mobilizes heavy
metals from mine workings. Dark, reddish-brown water and pH values as low
as 2.5, persist at the site. (Akcil and Koldas, in Oelofse. 2007: 619). It results
from the breakdown of pyrite (FeS2 or fools gold) and other reactive
sulphide-bearing minerals when exposed to air and water releasing acid,
sulphate and metal ions into the environment.
AMD thus results in water sources becoming acidic. It is caused by a chemical
process that is triggered when groundwater begins to refill underground
mining shafts, or when runoff water comes into contact with open pit mines or
tailings dams. The chemical process occurs when freshwater and oxygen come
into contact with sulphide-bearing strata, the so-called pyritic formations
that occur naturally underground in association with the gold-bearing reefs.
The reaction releases acid, sulphate and metal ions that can migrate into the
environment and enter freshwater sources (Funke et al. in press: 3).

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The acidity generated by the sulphuric acid formation can mobilise and release
heavy metals previously bound in the wastes, including arsenic, nickel, copper,
zinc and aluminium, as well as solubilisation of salts of sodium, chloride,
potassium and fluoride. It is mainly these dissolved metals that give to the
toxic nature of AMD (The Water Wheel. 2005: 16-17).
In addition, AMD is often associated with significant concentrations of toxic
trace elements and radionuclides. These contaminants remobilise under acidic
conditions and migrate into the vadose zone and groundwater system.
(Rsner & Van Schalkwyk. 1999: 138).
Dewatering - The removal of water from a drowned shaft or waterlogged
workings by pumping or drainage as a safety measure or as a preliminary step
to resumption of development in the area (Websters.org).
ECL (Environmental critical level) = is defined as the highest water level
within the mine void where no AMD flows out of the mine workings into the
surrounding groundwater or surface water systems (News for Africa.
25/2/2011.online)
A definition of mine water after ERMITE (2004b) reads Mine water is
water in mined ground including waste rock/tailings depositories and/or
draining into an adjoining body of water including streams, lakes, aquifers,
wetlands, and oceans. (Oelofse. 2008: 3).
Pyrite - The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulphide with the formula
FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have
earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold. The
colour has also led to the nicknames brass, brazzle and Brazil, primarily used
to refer to pyrite found in coal. Pyrite is the most common of the sulphide
minerals (Wikipedia.org).
Radon: According to the US National Environmental Services Centre
(nesc.wvu.edu) is Radon a naturally occurring radioactive gas that emits
ionizing radiation. National and international scientific organizations have
concluded that radon causes lung cancer in humans. Ingesting drinking water
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that contains radon also presents a risk of internal organ cancers, primarily
stomach cancer.
Ramsar - "Ramsar Convention" -- is an intergovernmental treaty that
embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological
character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the
"wise use", or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories.
Salinity in the ocean refers to the water's "saltiness". Other disciplines use
chemical analyses of solutions, and thus salinity is frequently reported in mg/L
or ppm (parts per million) (Wikipedia.org). The salt load is defined by the
total dissolved solids (TDS) concentration measured in mg/1 (Pilson et al.
2000: 1.7)
TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) is a measure of the combined content of all
inorganic and organic substances contained in a liquid in: molecular, ionized
or micro-granular (colloidal sol) suspended form. Generally the operational
definition is that the solids must be small enough to survive filtration through a
sieve the size of two micrometer. Total dissolved solids are normally discussed
only for freshwater systems, as salinity comprises some of the ions
constituting the definition of TDS (Wikipedia.org).
TWQR for a particular water use is defined as the range of concentrations or
levels at which the presence of the constituent would have no known adverse
or anticipated effects on the fitness on the water assuming long-term
continuous use, and for safeguarding the health of aquatic ecosystems.
Uranium: According to the US National Environmental Services Centre
(nesc.wvu.edu) is Uranium a naturally occurring radioactive contaminant that
is found in both groundwater and surface water. At high exposure levels,
uranium is believed to cause bone cancer and other cancers in humans.

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Chapter 1: Introduction
Developing the idea and motivation for the study
AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) is currently a highly contentious issue in South
Africa, therefore also largely publicized in the popular media. The South
African government is being attacked by environmentalists as not properly
admitting the extent of the problem therefore not sufficiently addressing the
problem. The environmentalist movement and the popular media on the other
hand receive criticism for its tendency to exaggerate the problem and its search
for sensationalism in order to sell newspapers. This controversial issue has
sparked countless debates among experts, government and environmentalists.
The popular media has captured the hearts and minds of the public due to
emotive reporting that the South African government is indeed failing to
acknowledge the severity of the problem, and has indeed done so for the last
decade, and that it is furthermore not sufficiently addressing the problem in
order to avoid a catastrophe. The popular media has painted a bleak picture of
the extent to which AMD is impacting our environment, consequently also
South Africas ability to sustainably grow economically.
In this argument regarding the impact of AMD, the public tends to be swayed
by the popular media. The government and its para-statal research
organisations has spent millions of Rands to scientifically research the
potential impact that AMD might have not only on South Africas
environment, but also on its ability for future economic growth. These
scientific reports compiled by experts, are not always accessible and are kept
from the public eye. Government decisions are based on these scientific
reports, which might have downplayed the extent of the problem.
The motivation for this study is to, objectively with the data from various
groups on both sides of the issue, and with independent research already
conducted, determine whether the impact of AMD on agriculture as part of the

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environment and influenced by the environment is in fact impacted negatively


or positively by AMD, without being swayed by popular media omissions.

The research topic


AMD has a substantial impact on the physical environment. Many mines in the
Witwatersrand have ceased mining operations due to a decreased availability
of minable materials such as gold in the Witwatersrand. While the mines were
still active they kept on pumping the water out of the Witwatersrand rock
caverns in order to mine the rocks. However when mining operations over the
years at these mines ceased, the pumping of water out of these Witwatersrand
rock structures ceased as well and consequently water flowed back in either
from adjacent Dolomite aquifers or from rainwater on top. Large-scale
closure of mining operations since the 1970s within the Witwatersrand mining
regions or basins and the subsequent termination of the extraction of
underground water from mines have become important national concerns
(The Expert Team of the Inter-Ministerial Committee under the Coordination
of the Council for Geoscience. 2010:1).
According to Cobbing (2011), have mining operations over more than a
century exposed the Witwatersrand rocks, which contain Pyrite, to water and
oxygen. If the exposed Pyrite or iron sulphide comes in contact with water and
oxygen, a chemical reaction takes place, causing the water to be acidic. The
acidic water then either decants into rivers and dams or it contaminates fresh
groundwater resources, by flowing into the adjacent Dolomite aquifers
underneath the Witwatersrand.
Cobbing (2011) further states that if untreated, the water with a very low PH
value (acidic), high salinity and toxic metals such as uranium, which is
radioactive, can wreak havoc in the surrounding eco-systems when it decants
into river systems and dams. The acidity in the water renders the water useless
for consumption by all living organisms. In the past active mines did treat the
acidic water they pumped out. However, pumping operations as well as
treatment plants at abandoned mines have ceased. The water that decants now
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in many places all across the Witwatersrand is untreated and highly toxic,
unsuitable for human consumption and destructive towards the natural
environment.
The impact on the natural environment is evident. However what is not evident
is how the economy might be impacted. The economy relies on sustainable
water resources in order to function. Agriculture is one section of the economy
which relies heavily on the availability of usable water resources. The question
thus remains how agriculture will be impacted by the incidence of AMD in the
Witwatersrand. The impact of AMD on Agriculture in Gauteng specifically is
of interest, as it is the closest agricultural area to the point of contamination.
The problem statement
The impact of AMD on the natural environment is evident and visible. The
acidic water decanting all over the Witwatersrand has had a very destructive
effect on eco-systems in the area, disturbing a very crucial balance on which
all living organisms, including man, depend on.
What is not as evident and visible is the effect that contaminated water sources
might have on sustainable economic growth. Sustainable economic growth
depends on the state of the natural environment. The economy depends on
sustainable natural resources.
Agriculture is a section of the economy that relies heavily upon natural
resources. According to GCIS (in Perret.2002: 2) does irrigated agriculture and
stock-watering use about 52-55 % of the total water in South Africa. Due to
the fact that the agricultural sector relies so heavily on water, it will
undoubtedly be impacted by Acid Mine Drainage. The incidence of Acid Mine
Drainage has a serious effect on the availability of fresh water resources in
South Africa. Consequently, the agricultural sector, which is the main user of
such fresh water in South Africa, will be heavily impacted upon.

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Thus the question remains: What is the economic impact of AMD in the
Witwatersrand on agriculture in Gauteng?
The Main problem is
To ascertain what impact AMD (acid Mine Drainage) in the Witwatersrand
has on the agricultural sector in the Gauteng province of South Africa.
Subproblems
1. To establish what the effects of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) are on water
resources that are used for agricultural practices.
2. To ascertain the effects of AMD on agriculturally assigned water resources in
the Gauteng agricultural area.
3. To identify the short term and the long term effects of AMD on agriculturally
assigned water resources in the Gauteng agricultural area.
4. To establish and to describe the physical effects of Acidic water due to AMD
on crops in general.
5. To ascertain the impact of AMD on commercial irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng.
6. To ascertain the impact of AMD on subsistence irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng.
7. To establish the amount of hectares of planted crops that may have been lost or
to establish what percentage of agricultural land has been lost in the Gauteng
area due to AMD over the last 3 years.
8. To establish whether AMD have an effect on agricultural stock farming in
Gauteng and to ascertain what these effects are.
9. To establish whether farm workers in Gauteng have been affected by AMD.
10. To ascertain the amount or percentage of farm workers in the Gauteng, who
may have lost jobs due to economic losses suffered by farmers due to the
incidence of AMD.
11. To ascertain the effect of AMD on subsistence farmers in the Gauteng area.

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Explanation of Research Design and Methodology


A literature study was proposed as prime source of data. Field research in the
form of questionnaires to relevant experts was also proposed as a secondary
source of data collection. A literature review, however delivered limited
results with regards to the impact of AMD in the Witwatersrand on Gauteng
agriculture. The questionnaires had limitations with respect to the nature of the
questions as well as the fact that the interviewees had busy schedules.
It was clear from the onset that available literature was insufficient to solve the
research problem. Since AMD is a contentious issue between government
(including its para-statal research institutions such as the WRC, CSIR, etc), the
mining sector and environmentalist movements/NGOs, the usual resources
available to the public was not going to paint the true picture. There was a
need to dig deeper by gaining the trust of all relevant parties/stakeholders
within this debate, in order to gather data, that is not available in popular
media, or which may have been reported on inaccurately by the media. The
need, thus, arose to approach experts in the field in order to conduct personal
interviews. As a trusting relationship was built, reports not easily accessible
and limited to the public were released that pertained to the research problem.
The evidence or data required to address the research question were locked up
into the resource pool of various contending experts. Reports by para-statal
research institutions regarding the extent of the AMD problem are being kept
from the public. Environmental activists, academics, and non-government
stakeholders are in possession of such reports or have written such reports. The
usual channel of acquiring data was insufficient to gather evidence. Personal
interviews, telephone conversations, e-mail correspondence with these groups
revealed a legio of evidence that does not exist in the normal pool of resources.
The need thus arose to personally interview various groups.
Government agencies were unresponsive to interviews. I was unable to consult
with any government departments regarding the research problem. All
attempts to interview government officials proved unsuccessful. E-mail
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requests were mostly ignored or the data offered were of inconsequential


value. Para-statal institutions proved more helpful, yet cautious at the same
time. Organisations and individuals un-betrothed to the South African
government, which are involved in environmental activism, proved not only
helpful, but also least cautious in providing sensitive scientific reports.
The evidence thus required were located in journal articles (such as Water SA,
Waterwheel (WRC), SA journal of Science, International Journal of Water
Resource Development, etc), scientific reports from Para-statal research
institutions (such as The water Research Commission, The Agricultural
Research Commission, CSIR and the Council for Geosciences), popular media
contributions, especially investigative journalism reports (such as 50/50 on
SABC 2, Carte Blanche on M-Net, and Special Assignment on SABC 3),
government reports (such as was issued by the Department of Water Affairs
and Forestry, Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Environment and
Conservation, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Department
of Water Affairs, etc), government statements, interviews with experts and
activists (Mariette Liefferink (FSE), Jude Cobbing (Geoscience Consulting),
Phil Hobbs (CSIR); and interviews with farmers in the contaminated region.
Objectivity had to be maintained at the same time, thus evidence that could
disprove the theory was deliberately sought. Reports and interviews indicating
that AMD in the Witwatersrand might actually have a positive impact on
Gauteng agriculture were sought and found.
However, most experts interviewed acknowledged the fact that limited
research exists with regards to the impact that AMD has on agriculture in
general. Physical impact studies exist in abundance. The impact of AMD on
the natural environment has been reported in many studies. However the
socio-economic impact that it will have on Gauteng agriculture, as a branch of
the economy, has not been reported on. Therefore a gap exists to which
research must attend to.

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Outline of thesis and chapter contents


1. Introduction
2. South-Africas Water scarcity crisis
3. Mining in the Witwatersrand
a. History
b. Current affairs
4. Mine waste and pollution
5. Conceptualizing AMD
a. High Sulphates
b. The Salinity debate
c. Radioactivity
6. The seriousness and extent of AMD in the Witwatersrand
a. AMD in the Western Basin (West Rand of WWR)
b. AMD in the Eastern Basin (East Rand of WWR)
7. AMDs impact on the environment
8. The socio-economic impact of AMD
9. Agriculture in Gauteng
a. Agriculture and climate in SA
b. Gauteng climate
10. The impact of AMD on Agriculture
a. The effects of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) on water resources used for
agricultural practices.
b. The effects of AMD on agriculturally assigned water resources in the Gauteng
agricultural area.
c. The short term and the long term effects of AMD on agriculturally assigned
water resources in the Gauteng agricultural area.
d. The physical effects of Acidic water due to AMD on crops in general.
e. The impact of AMD on commercial irrigation crop farming in Gauteng.
f. The impact of AMD on subsistence irrigation crop farming in Gauteng.
g. The effect of AMD on subsistence farmers in the Gauteng area.
h. The effect on agricultural stock farming in Gauteng.
i. The effect of AMD on farm workers in Gauteng.

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Chapter 2: Literature Review


Introduction
A literature study was mainly proposed with an additional component of field
research in the form of a controlled questionnaire. Secondary literature that
was examined includes not only academic journal articles, but also scientific
reports by Research institutions to government departments and interministerial committees established to address a growing concern. Para-statal
research institutions such as the Water Research Commission (WRC), the
Agricultural Research Commission (ARC), the CSIR, and the Council for
Geosciences conducted independent research as part of their mandate or were
commissioned by government. Internally, government departments also
conducted their own research. Investigative journalism by the popular media,
made an extensive contribution, stating the case for environmental activism
where government failed to do so. Lastly, Non Governmental Organisations,
such as the Foundation for Sustainable Environment (FSE) have conducted
various independent reports for submission to the Parliamentary Portfolio
Committee on Environment and Water, as well as other government
departments in order to pressurize government into more urgent action.
The main body of literature reviewed, discussed the environmental impact of
AMD on the natural environment, such as protected wetland areas for example
the Blesbokspruit catchment, previously a RAMSAR site before AMD
contamination; the Krugersdorp Game Reserve; and cultural sites such as the
Cradle of Humankind in the West rand. Rarely, the impact that AMD has on
agriculture is mentioned. How AMD contaminated water with heavy metals,
such as Uranium and Cadmium, will affect water and soil quality, are reported.
No studies could be found that reports on the sosio-economic impacts on
agriculture and farmers per se. Thus, the studies conducted falls into the realm
of the natural sciences. Social impact studies in my literature review do not
exist. The field is dominated by natural scientists.

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AMD decant and contamination affects the whole Witwatersrand. The


Witwatersrand Mining Basin is composed of the Far East Basin, Central Rand
Basin, Western Basin, Far Western Basin, KOSH (Klerksdorp, Orkney,
Stilfontein and Hartbeestfontein) and the Free State gold mines. The literature
reviewed mostly focuses on the Western Basin where AMD has been
decanting since 2002 due to mines no longer de-watering abandoned mine
operations. According to Liefferink (Interview. 9/7/2011) there are at present
no mines in the Western Basin with pumping operations to de-water mines in
order to prevent decant of AMD. The case of the Western Basin is most
urgent; therefore the majority of impact studies focus on the incidence of
AMD in this region.
The Blesbokspruit, Tweelopiespruit and Wonderfontein catchments receive
huge attention, due to the fact that they are protected areas with sensitive ecosystems upon which many plant, animal and fish species rely. The Cradle of
Humankind, a World Heritage site, also receives a lot of attention. The Tudor
Shaft Settlement in Mogale City local municipality, however, is built upon and
adjacent to uraniferous tailings, which seriously affects their health
(Liefferink. Interview: 9/7/2011). Communities, especially the poor are
excluded from impact studies in the literature that was reviewed.
Literature review and discussion
A distinction should be made between the reports in the popular media and the
studies conducted by natural research scientists, academics and environmental
activists. The reports in the popular media were investigative and emotive with
scientific facts not always reported correctly, whilst the reports of scientists
and researchers were statistical and measurable, inclusive of many quantitative
scientific studies that were conducted across proper lines of methodology.
The emergence of AMD polluted waters on the West Rand in 2002 resulted in
growing controversy and concern. The media extensively reported, and
continues to report, on the risks this poses to the environment. The coverage
has included the following: 1) the negative effects of AMD on people who use
water downstream from mines and boreholes polluted by mine waste; 2) the
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impact on the livelihoods of farmers relying on those waters for crop


irrigation; 3) the lack of monitoring of this issue by authorities; 4) how AMD
should be dealt with; 5) societal reactions to the problem; and 5) how mines
have gained financially by externalising environmental costs. (Funke et al. in
press: 4-5).
In 2005, much of the initial media attention was triggered by the so-called
WRC 1214 Report by Henk Coetzee, which summarised the results of a
research project, funded by the Water Research Commission (WRC) of South
Africa on the nature and extent of mining-related uranium (U) pollution in the
Wonderfonteinspruit (WFS)

catchment, as well as associated risks.

Disagreeing with the risk assessment methodology employed and published in


the report, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), which represented on the
WRC Project No. 1214 Steering Committee, distanced itself from the findings
of the report, announcing its intention to conduct its own investigations into
the matter. After years of delay this investigation finally took place in
December 2006. (Winde. 2010: 239).
Consequently in April 2005, the media drew attention to the West Rand basin
with news headlines such as: A rising acid tide and Acid River rocks
Cradle of Humankind. The reports went on to state that South Africas
renowned Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng, home to one of the worlds
richest hominid fossil sites, is under threat from highly acidic water pollution
(Independent online, 14 April 2005) and It is also threatening to drown the
Sterkfontein caves. (Mail and Guardian, 12 April 2005). The Mail and
Guardian also accused scientists, mining companies and government of
reluctance to discuss the mine water decant and its impact publicly, yet it is the
start of a problem of such magnitude that it will affect our environment and
health for decades to come. (Mail and Guardian, 12 April 2005). More recent
media reports have drawn attention to mine water pollution contaminating the
Loskop Dam, Randfontein and Wonderfontein Spruit areas. (Oelofse. 2008: 2).
Much of the media hype since then has focussed on the impact of AMD and
AMD related pollution on the natural environment. The wetlands in the
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Witwatersrand, such as the Wonderfonteinspruit (Far Western Rand), the


Tweelopiespruit (West Rand) and the Blesbokspruit (East Rand), have been
the particular focus. These wetlands seem to form the central points around
which the surrounding communities, industries, mining and agriculture
revolve. Pollution of these wetlands is of grave concern not only for the
popular media, but also for scientists and government.
There is overwhelming evidence; 1) that the water of the Tweelopiespruit and
the Wonderfonteinspruit is polluted by the gold and uranium mines of Gauteng
and the West and Far West Rand; 2) that the water contains unacceptable
levels of acid, sulphates, and metals; 3) that the water and sediment contain
radion nucleotides such as uranium in excess of 15 micrograms per litre, which
is the prescribed maximum allowed by the WHO for human consumption
(World Health Organisation, 2005); 4) that high levels of pollutants, especially
in combination with one another, cause the degradation of the aquatic
ecosystem; and 5) that the pollution emanating from the mines, poses a threat
to the health of humans and other organisms that depend on that water source.
Extending from Roodepoort in the east to Randfontein in the west, and
including Krugersdorp, the West Rand falls within the greater metropolitan
area of Johannesburg. The area to the north is home to some of South Africas
most picturesque natural resources, including the Cradle of Humankind, a
world heritage site.
The West Rand first started to decant in 2002. According to Liefferink (2011:
8) are between 18 and 36 million litres AMD contaminated water flowing,
uncontrolled and untreated, into the Tweelopiespruit (Limpopo Catchment)
and seeping into the Wonderfonteinspruit (Vaal River Catchment). During
heavy rainfall, approximately 60 million litres AMD are flowing into the
receiving environment. According to Cobbing (2008: 451) is Western Mining
Basin near Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg in the Gauteng Province of
South Africa, the most serious single case in the country today. Volumes as
large as 36 000 million cubic metres/day of polluted water threaten a game

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reserve (KGR), an important dolomite groundwater aquifer and the Cradle of


Humankind, World Heritage Site.
There has been a similar, yet smaller in scale, focus on the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment in the Far Western Rand of the Witwatersrand. According to
Coetzee (2006a: i) has the eastern catchment of the Mooi River, also known as
the Wonderfonteinspruit, located at the westernmost part of the West Rand
goldfield, been identified in a number of studies, as the site of significant
radioactive and other pollution, generally attributed to the mining and
processing of uraniferous gold ores in the area.
The Wonderfonteinspruit valley is densely populated because of its
agricultural value and presence of gold mines (Coetzee. 2006a: xiv). Coetzee
(2006a: xiv) furthermore stated in his infamous 1214 WRC report, that the
key contaminant identified in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment was
uranium. According to Coetzee (2006a: xvi), is a significant amount of
uranium (several tens of tons per annum) entering the Wonderfonteinspruit via
controlled and uncontrolled point discharges, as well as large-scale diffuse
discharges. The measured uranium content of many of the fluvial sediments
in the Wonderfonteinspruit, including those off mine properties and therefore
outside the boundaries of licensed sites, exceeds the exclusion limit for
regulation by the National Nuclear Regulator (Coetzee 2006: xvii).
The Blesbokspruit catchment, in its entirety covers approximately 60km. It is
situated in the East Rand in the Gauteng Province, approximately 3km east of
the town of Springs. The towns of Boksburg, Benoni and Brakpan lie in the
northwest, with Nigel located south of the site. Approximately 45% of the
catchment is urbanized while the remaining land is utilized for agricultural,
mining and industrial activities. The catchment is also subjected to
uncontrolled illegal dumping of pollutants, uncontrolled informal settlements
and invasive plant species (Nell. 2008: 2). Fewer literature and field studies
have covered this particular eco-system. The Blesbokspruit area is a
permanently inundated reed-dominated (Typha & Phragmites) wetland, which
is permanently flooded, due to artificial inputs of water (e.g. from mines and

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sewage treatment works). The reed beds are probably supported by eutrophic
water.
However, due to AMD pollution, the site has lost its RAMSAR status. The
Aurora mine was pumping untreated AMD water into the Blesbokspruit, until
December 2010, when it ceased all dewatering (pumping) operations
(Liefferink. 2011). With no other mine pumping in the East Rand, AMD is
decanting at a rate of 100 million litres per day. The Eastern Basin, like the
Western Basin is heading towards surface decant, and the limited studies
conducted thus far on the East Rand, has given way for much needed case
studies and field research in the Eastern basin.
Furthermore, the literature reviewed all fall within the natural sciences, such as
geology, hydrogeology, and agricultural science. No journal article or report
reviewed, were conducted by social scientists. The reviewed literature did
mention sosio economic impacts, but to a limited extent. No psychological/
socio logical studies exist either within the field of the social/human sciences
or within the field of Development Studies. There is a definitive research gap
on how the physical impacts upon the physical environment will in fact impact
humans sosio economically who has to rely on the physical environment.
Scientific reports from various para-statal research organisations were
reviewed, including the Council for Geoscience (CGS), the Council for
Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Water Research Commission
(WRC) and the Agricultural Research Commission (ARC). Reports which
provided useful data and analysis, includes: Coetzees WRC Report 1214
(2006), which first exposed toxic radioactive uranium levels in the WFS
catchment; Pilson et als WRC Report 800/1/00 (2000) which addresses the
high salinity in treated mine water; Nells (2009) ARC article on the
Blesbokspruit catchment, arguing that treated AMD water can be used with
success on certain crops; and Hobbs CSIR report (2008) on fish mortalities in
the Koelenhoff farm case study, that can be attributed to a combination of
factors of which AMD is only one.
Various academic articles in the Natural sciences were reviewed, of which
most notable; 1) The environmental impact of gold mine tailings footprints in
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the Johannesburg region, South Africa by Rsner & van Schalkwyk (2000),
who include gold mine tailings, (which most in the Witwatersrand are situated
in urbanized areas), as containing significant amounts of radionuclides such as
uranium and radium, and is as a result radioactive; 2) The pollution and
destruction threat of gold mining waste on the Witwatersrand - A West Rand
case study, by Oelofse et al. (2007), which highlights the extent and
seriousness of AMD as well as providing useful data on the various impacts of
AMD related water contamination; 3) Gold, Scorched Earth and Water: The
Hydropolitics of Johannesburg, by Turton et al (2006), providing much
needed background and historical data on the Witwatersrand; and 4) Legal
issues concerning mine closure and social responsibility on the West Rand,
by van Eeden et al. (2009), regarding the physical characteristics of AMD
contaminated water, such as high salinity and radioactivity.
The intended proposal of the socio-economic impact of AMD on agriculture,
not in a meta-physic sense but as an impact upon peoples livelihoods which is
sustained by agriculture for one, was sought. Huge amount of studies cover the
physical impacts on the environment and a lot less even covers the potential or
real physical impact of AMD on agriculture as a natural science. However,
very little literature mentioned possible risks/concerns/impacts. It was furthermore part only to a broader study and not the focus of a study in itself.
My initial proposal to focus mainly on secondary literature had to be revised
and field study became an increasing necessity as the primary source of data.
The physical and environmental impacts are reported extensively. The sosioeconomic impacts are mentioned in several studies, but descriptive and
explanatory data lack. This had to be supplemented with interviews and
controlled questionnaires.
Limited data with regards to the impact or potential impact that AMD has or
might have on the physical aspects of agriculture exists. The data, furthermore,
were only available in environmental/natural science reports. Due to the high
technical complexity and difficulty of natural scientific studies where results
were conveyed in mathematical and scientific formulae, the need arose for
experts to convey data in laymans terms. This meant controlled questionnaires
19 | P a g e

had to be sent out and personal/telephone/e-mail interviews had to be


conducted.
Very little data in the literature reviewed, however in any data, however,
reported on the socio-economic or sustainable developmental perspective of
the impact of AMD contaminated water resources on farming and farming
communities in South Africa. Very little data appeared in the secondary
literature reviewed. There was thus an absolute reliance on field study.
Mariette Liefferink, self proclaimed whistle blower, environmental activist and
CEO of FSE (Foundation for a Sustainable Environment), provided me with
resources not currently accessible to the public. Her written reports to the
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee (Submission to the Parliamentary Portfolio
Committee on Environment and Water, NPO no. 062986-NPO. 2011) and
other government departments, as well as confidential reports, unreleased
reports and communications between environmental activists and government,
opened up provided me with useful data. Notably, Liefferink questions the
IMC report that treated AMD water are now fit for release into river
catchments. Even though the ph of the water has been heightened to neutralise
the acidity, high sulphate levels and toxic heavy metals still remain a threat for
certain water uses such as agriculture. Liefferink has co-authored many
scientific and academic reports.
Liefferink also provided me with communications between ABA owner D.
Brink and M. Keet (DWAF), where toxicity in the Tweelopiespruit is
impacting the wild animals in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, through which
the Tweelopiespruit flows. Infertility and cancers among the animals has
become a huge problem, leading to substantial economic losses for ABA.
Liefferink took me on a tour of the Western basin (9/7/2011), where AMD
related pollution occurs and radioactive sites where uranium levels in AMD
contaminated water were 20-40 times higher than NNR acceptable levels. The
sites visited and information gained is not within the public domain at present,
a situation Liefferink wish to remedy.

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Conclusion: Summary of main findings and arguments


The literature reviewed, brought about the realisation that the sosio-economic
impact of AMD on farmers and their livelihoods is a much needed topic for
research. Field studies as to how farmers themselves are feeling the impact of
AMD on their livelihood sustainability, needs to be conducted, since very little
data exists. Cobbing (2011) admits that not a lot of research exists with regards
to the impact of AMD on Gauteng agriculture.
Natural scientific reports and scholarly reports and recommendations exist.
These reports are written by researchers who work for government which
seems to be too slow in reacting to the AMD dilemma. Reports written by
activists however are not accessible to the public. Investigative journalism
however, tends to over-sensationalize the matter with over exaggeration and
emotive language.
The literature reviewed was limited to the natural sciences, since social impact
studies could not be found. It sketched the environmental impact of AMD.
Some sosio-economic impacts of AMD on communities and farmers were
mentioned but not discussed in detail, since it was not the topic of those
studies. The limited available literature open to public access constrained data
searches, and field studies, interviews and questionnaires had to be heavily
relied upon, even when this was not my original intention.
Chapter 3: Historical and Subject Background

Background of the study


a. Introduction
It is said that the earths supply of water is vast. However, about 96% is salty,
and most of the remaining fresh water is locked into ice caps and glaciers.
Thus less than 1% of the earths water is readily available for human use.
Modern society places tremendous demands on this limited source. As
supplies of groundwater are reduced and pollution contaminates these and
other reservoirs, shortages of water may become a serious concern in the
future (van Eeden. 2007: 56).
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According to Blignaut and van Heerden (2009: 415) is water indispensable for
life. It is also indispensable for economic activities. Water supply in South
Africa, however, is limited, unevenly distributed, and negatively impacted by
both changes in climate and the prevalence and spread of invasive alien plant
species. According to Molden, Merrey & Gilbert (in Oelofse et al. 2007: 622),
is access to clean water universally accepted to be a precondition for
economic and social development. Water is also crucial for drinking,
household use and food production (Oelofse et al. 2007: 622).
b. South Africas water crisis
Farley and Daly (in, Blignaut and van Heerden. 2009: 416) states that: The
availability of water of acceptable quality is predicted to be the single greatest
and most urgent development constraint facing South Africa. Virtually all the
surface waters are already committed for use, and water is imported from
neighbouring countries. Groundwater resources are quite limited; maintaining
their quality and using them sustainably is a key issue. Thus, South Africa is a
water-constrained country. The earliest writers on the subject described the
aridity of the country, which has always been one of the key limitations of
economic growth and development, and hence political stability. (Turton.
2009: 2).
c. Mining
Mining activities worldwide are at the core of much contention as they
enhance wealth and national gross domestic products (GDPs),
simultaneously

increase

socio-environmental

hardship

and

but

ecological

degradation. Numerous environmental problems occur as a result of mining.


They include dust pollution, soil damage, sinkhole formation, destruction of
vegetation and water pollution. (Funke et al. in press: 2).
Certain expert assessments by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1987
concluded that: problems related to mining waste may be rated as second
only to global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion in terms of
ecological risk. The release to the environment of mining waste can result in
profound, generally irreversible destruction of ecosystems (EEB, in Oelofse.
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2008:1). Since gold mining started more than a century ago, South Africa has
been the largest producer of gold in the world (DME. 1996). As at 1997, South
Africa produced an estimated 468 million tons of mineral waste per annum
(DWAF, in Oelofse et al. 2007:617). Gold mining waste was estimated to
account for 221 million tons or 47 % of all mineral waste produced in South
Africa, making it the largest, single source of waste and pollution (DWAF, in
Oelofse et al.2007:617).
d. Mining in South Africa
South Africas position in the global market is built largely on the huge
economic benefit derived from some 120 years of mining. The primary
commodities in this regard are undoubtedly gold, platinum, coal, diamonds,
copper, lead, zinc, and iron ore. Of these, the most notable decline is that
associated with gold mining, witness to which has been the large-scale closure
of Witwatersrand gold mines since the 1970s (Hobbs & Kennedy. 2011:1).
Even though mining has been one of the pillars of the South African economy
for more than a century, the riches that have come from drilling thousands of
meters under the earth, has come at a huge price. Mines can cause
environmental devastation decades and even centuries after they close. One of
the most pressing effects of mining, especially in water-scarce South Africa, is
the issue of contaminated water emanating from mine shafts and stopes into
surface water resources (The Water Wheel. 2005: 16).
In the early 1990s, after more than a century, deep-level gold mining finally
ceased at the West Rand and a system of interconnected underground voids of
the different gold mines, totalling an estimated volume of 125 million m,
started to gradually fill up with naturally infiltrating groundwater and surface
water (Winde. 2010: 250). After mines eventually discontinued the pumping
of underground water in 1998 (which was discharged into the Tweelopie
Spruit that drains via the Limpopo towards the Indian Ocean), in August 2002,
highly-polluted water from the mine void started flowing out of boreholes and
old shafts into low-lying areas and streams on the surface (AED, in Winde.
2010: 250-251).

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As a result of more than a century of largely unregulated gold mining, we now


have a legacy of heavy metal and radionuclide contamination in rivers flowing
out of most gold mining areas. We also have a high population density living
in close daily contact with dust and sediment arising from mine tailings dams
(large portions of SOWETO and the East and West Rand residential
complexes are located on land that in most developed countries would be
considered to be contaminated).

More than 270 tailings dams related to gold mining and covering a total area
of about 180 km have been identified in South Africa (Rsner et al. 1998).
Most of the tailings dams are situated either in highly urbanised areas or close
to valuable agricultural land. Since the 1970s the high operating costs of
deep underground gold mines have encouraged some companies to focus on
the reclamation of existing tailings dams for the recovery of gold still present
in economically viable quantities. However, a contaminated footprint of the
former tailings material remains, after reclamation has been completed
(Rsner & van Schalkwyk. 1999: 138). Liefferink (2011) states that in this
process at the Tailings to leach the gold, cyanide is used, which remains in
the waste either seeping into groundwater or flows into rivers when it rains.
e. The relationship between Mining and AMD
Cobbing (2011) explained that AMD exists due to years of mining activities,
especially gold mining, where the Witsrocks containing the gold, were now
exposed to water and oxygen due to drilling. The Witsrocks, however also
contain pyrite (iron sulphide) that chemically reacts with water and oxygen,
when exposed to water and oxygen due to the drilling, to bring about AMD.
These Wits rocks were previously isolated from the dolomite aquifers, but
now due to drilling these acidic water flow also into our aquifers polluting
groundwater sources. In order to reach the gold in the Wits rocks, adjacent
dolomite aquifers had to be dewatered. Mine closure however, has brought
about the cessation of dewatering the adjacent aquifers.

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To date there are 8000 derelict and ownerless mines on record, all of which are
un-rehabilitated and are costing the tax payer ZAR 100 billion (Brown, in
Turton. 2009: 2). Abandoned mine shafts and stopes, previously dewatered
when mined, now fill up again, due to cessation in mining. Clean water gets
exposed to the Pyrite in the previously isolated Wits rocks. The water no
longer being pumped out by the mines (dewatered) rises to the surface and
decants. As soon as the Pyrite-contaminated water gets exposed to oxygen, a
chemical reaction takes place, whereby the waters ph decreases from 7
(neutral) to 2 (acidic). At a PH of 3 a precipitation of heavy metals takes place.
The Water Wheel (2005: 17), states that when this contaminated water decants
into streams and rivers above ground the acid all available neutralising agents
attacks, and as the pH rises the metals precipitate as hydroxides and oxides.
Cobbing (2011) states that Acid mine drainage has three

characteristics,

namely; a. Low Ph (acidity) anything below 7 ph; b. High salinity (salt); and
c. Toxic metals such as uranium, which is radioactive.
f. High Sulphates
One of the characteristics of AMD is a high level of sulphates. If humans
ingest more than 600 mg/l of sulphate, it may lead to vomiting and diarrhoea
(van Eeden et al. 2009: 55).However, the salinity within such acidic water
after it decants is 4700 mg/litre. The World Health Organisations standard for
sulphates is 200mg/l; the environment requires less than 100 mg/l and animals
can tolerate up to 1000 mg/l. Irrigation requirements are less than 150 mg/l,
that is, for total salts (Liefferink. 2011:16). Even after Neutralization
(treatment with lime - that forces the acidity to settle at the bottom in sediment,
with the treated water flowing above the sediment), salinity remains high at
about 3700 mg/litre, well above the World Health Organisation acceptable
standard (Liefferink. 2011).
g. Radio-activity
A more concerning characteristic of AMD is radioactivity. Some of the metals
contained in AMD such as uranium, thorium, radium, polonium, and some
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isotopes of lead are, in addition to being chemically toxic, also radioactive.


Uranium is identified as the principal contaminant of concern emitted by the
gold mining industry. Uranium is radioactive and chemically toxic with an
extremely long half-life of 10 years. Its impacts, after mine closure, on
persons, property, and the environment are, therefore, long term and of
appreciable magnitude (van Eeden et al. 2009: 55). Furthermore, the gold mine
tailings from the Witwatersrand also contain significant amounts of radio
nuclides such as uranium and radium. As a result, this material is classified as
low level radioactive waste (Rsner & van Schalkwyk. 1999: 142).
According to Winde et al (in van Eeden et al. 2009: 55), does uranium and its
daughter products have a long-term impact on the environment due to the fact
that these elements accumulate in the sediments and will continue to leach out
of the mine tailings and slimes dams for centuries to come. Radon gas, a byproduct of AMD can cause cancer in humans (Liefferink. 2011). The Tudor
Shaft tailing dam near the Tudor Shaft settlement contains 10 000 100 000
BQ/kg of radioactive uranium, where the NNR regulatory limit is 500 BQ/kg
(Liefferink. 2011).
h. Agriculture in South Africa
Only about 12 % of South Africa is arable. So the country is, in fact,
agriculturally poor, and this sector contributes very little to the overall GDP
(van Eeden. 2007: 56-57). However, Irrigated agriculture, consuming 62%, is
by far the largest single surface water user (Blignaut and van Heerden. 2009:
416). The agricultural sector, even though not contributing much to South
Africas GDP, is the main water user, and can thus be potentially impacted by
contaminated water sources due to the occurrence of AMD in the
Witwatersrand. The farms within the closest range of the Witwatersrand AMD
contamination zone falls within the boundaries of the Gauteng, Mpumalanga,
Free State, and North West provinces of South Africa. The Gauteng province
was chosen as the case study.

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Important issues to the study


South Africa is one of about 30 countries, who are considered water stressed,
of which 20 countries face absolute water scarcities of less than 500 m per
capita per year (Overseas Development Institute. 2002: 1). This limited
resources availability and quality is further exacerbated by pollution. In South
Africa, toxic and radioactive substances generated from industries is polluting
rivers and causing long term contamination of the aquatic ecosystems
(www.controllingpollution). Furthermore, waste from gold mines is the largest
single source of waste and pollution in South Africa and there is wide
acceptance that Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is responsible for the most costly
environmental and socio-economic impacts (Oelofse, Hobbs, Rascher and
Cobbing. 2007:1).
The threat of AMD to the environment is not solved in the short to medium
term; it is likely to persist for centuries to come. AMD threatens the scarce
water resources (the environment) of South Africa, and as a result also human
health and food security.
a. South African Water legislation
The government of South Africa is the guardian and the responsible party to
ensure sustainable water resources. The National Water Act NWA (Act 36 of
1998) specifies that government, as the public trustee of the nations water
resources, must act in the public trust to ensure that water is protected, used,
developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable
manner for the benefit of all persons (Perret. 2002: 9). The new water law
sets out to meet the objective of managing water quantity and quality to
achieve optimum long-term environmentally sustainable social and economic
benefits for society, while ensuring that all people have access to sufficient
water. Water is considered a national resource vested in the state
(UNDESA/UNDP/UNECE. 2003: 12).

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b. South Africas mining sector


The mining sector is the biggest polluter of South Africas scarce water
resources, exacerbating not only availability, but also the quality. In the
Witwatersrand in particular, the gold mining practices over more than a
century has left a serious footprint on the environment. Abandoned mine voids
are decanting at an alarming rate all over the Witwatersrand. More than 200
tailing dumps scatter the Witwatersrand landscape, threatening not only the
sensitive wetlands, but also large sections of poor communities in close
proximity of these dumps.
c. Popular media reports
The impacts and dangers have been reported in the popular media since 2002
when the first decant in the western Basin occurred. Government through its
para statal research institutions has researched the problem exhaustively. Many
of these reports were kept from the public. With continued pressure from the
media, particularly investigative journalism, for example TV shows such as
50/50 on SABC 2 and Carte Blanche, government slowly reacted.
Environmental activism was given a chance to expose matters previously
concealed. Government under pressure appointed a Team of Experts in 2010,
which had to compile a report for a newly appointed Inter-Ministerial
Committee on AMD, entitled: Mine water management in the Witwatersrand
gold fields with special emphasis on Acid Mine Drainage. Recommendations
were made by the task team, which the IMC approved. According to
Liefferink (2011) has none of the treatment measures proposed and approved
been implemented as of yet.
d. The socio-economic impact of AMD
The socio economic impacts of AMD pollution are mentioned in brief, but not
explored in detail. The livelihoods of communities are at stake. Communities
and farms depend on fresh water resources for their daily needs. If these
resources are contaminated, it poses serious risks to the sosio economic
welfare of the said communities. Adler and Rashan (in Oelofse et al. 2007:
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622) states that long-term exposure to AMD polluted drinking water, may
lead to increased rates of cancer, decreased cognitive function and appearance
of skin lesions. Recent studies conducted by the South African Council for
Geosciences (CGS), concluded that AMD in some of the areas contains high
levels of radioactivity which may increase the risk for cancer (Oelofse et al.
2007: 622).
Funke and Meisner (2011: 25), states that mining activities also affect the
landowners and communities living close to mines. Liefferink refers to the
plight of communities living in close proximity to the mining operations on the
Western Basin, who are directly exposed to mine dumps and tailings dams.
She tries to create awareness amongst these communities (with the help of
some funding from the mining companies) by making them aware of the
health hazards they face in their day-to-day lives (Funke et al., in press).
According to van Eeden et al (in Funke and Meisner. 2011: 25), is this a
problem in particular because some of these communities are dependent on
ground water from boreholes due to a lack of municipal water supply. In
addition, farmers and their workers use ground water and surface water for
drinking purposes, to water livestock and to irrigate crops. Where water used
for irrigation is contaminated by mine effluent, this could negatively impact on
crops and subsequently pose a risk for human health and the financial security
of farmers who need to meet certain quality standards for their crops.
Mine closure and the associated increase in AMD also has serious
consequences for communities previously supported by the mining sector
Mine closure results in loss of job opportunities and increased unemployment.
In addition, informal settlements with associated social pathologies are on the
increase. Liefferink (2011) points out those settlements all over the
Witwatersrand rely on subsistence farming, due to high unemployment. There
are settlements like Kagiso and Tudor Shaft in the West Rand which rely on
subsistence agriculture. Their water sources are contaminated however due to
the fact that they are in close proximity to tailing dumps, which contaminate
their water sources with toxic heavy metals such as uranium. The Tudor Shaft
tailing dam near the Tudor Shaft settlement contains 20-200 times more
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uranium than the NNR accepted level (Liefferink. 2011). AMD is also
decanting in the western basin, polluting the Tweelopiespruit upon which
many communities rely for all their water needs (Liefferink. 2011).

e. Other impacts
According to Civil Society Organisations involved in AMD activism, 2010 (in
Funke & Meissner. 2011: 25): in addition to AMD having a negative effect
on private and communal property, it also potentially has a detrimental effect
on the built environment, ecosystems, agricultural and heritage resources,
which ultimately impacts negatively on society. These negative impacts often
only reach their climax decades or centuries after mining activities have
stopped (Van Eeden et al., in Funke & Meissner. 2011: 27). The potential
health effects of AMD are also considerable, especially in cases where AMD
is decanting at present and is affecting downstream communities (Funke &
Meissner. 2011: 25).
Chapter 4: Research design and Methodology
Design and methodology followed during field research
Secondary literature sources proved insufficient to gather data with regards to
the impact of AMD in the Witwatersrand on agriculture in Gauteng province
of South Africa. Field research thus had to be conducted. The methodologies
used included personal interviews with experts in the field, controlled
questionnaires in which experts were asked to answer specific questions with
relation to the research topic, and field visits to the Western Basin of the
Witwatersrand with Environmental activist and CEO of the Foundation of
Sustainable Environment Ms. Mariette Liefferink. Where physical interviews
could not take place, telephonic interviews were conducted and/or e-mail
communiqus took place.
Nikki Funke at the CSIR was very helpful, connecting me with all the relevant
experts in the field, such as Phil Hobbs (Hydro geologist CSIR), Prof
Anthony Turton, Mariette Liefferink (FSE), and Jude Cobbing (Water
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Geosciences Consulting). I conducted personal interviews with P. Hobbs, Jude


Cobbing and Mariette Liefferink. Cobbing, Funke and Turton agreed to
complete the controlled questionnaire.
Government departments were approached to be interviewed or to complete
the questionnaire. I approached the following departments: GDARD (Gauteng
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development), DAFF (Dept of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), and The Gauteng Department of
Agriculture. I got at most e-mail responses that an expert would get back to
me. This never happened.
I also contacted the TAU (Transvaal Agricultural Union) and WISA (The
Water Institute of South Africa), but received no reply. Prof. E.J. Stoch and
Prof. van Eeden at the North West University in Potchefstroom proved to be
very helpful. I was not able to meet with Prof. Stoch, due to transportation
difficulties. He invited me to spend a day with me taking me to affected areas.
He did however provide me with very useful reports on the research topic.
Dr. J.P. Nell from the ARC-Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ARCISCW), agreed to complete my questionnaire. I also conducted a telephonic
interview with him. His insights and stance on the matter proved extremely
useful. He took an alternative view than all the other scientists I consulted
with, providing my research with a more balanced and objective view.
Data analysis
The personal, telephone and/or e-mail interviews conducted, as well as the
controlled questionnaires assisted me to understand technical and scientific
content matter in laymans terms. I could ask questions where I was not sure
whether I correctly understood or requested experts to simplify matters into
understandable terminology.
I was provided with reports, some of confidential nature, not accessible to the
public. The same experts also explained the contents of the reports in easier
terminology where I requested. I was free to e-mail requests or clarifications.
31 | P a g e

Scientific studies conducted in a quantitative manner were analysed for me and


translated into understandable language.
Chapter 5: Results Presentation and discussion
Results of the study
a. The physical impact of AMD on water
Agriculture in Gauteng is being impacted by AMD contaminated water. The
effects of AMD on water resources for agricultural practices would be the
same as the effects of AMD on all water resources in Gauteng: high salinity
levels, low pH and extreme pollution (Funke. 2011). Experts disagree as to the
extent and whether there is also room for positive impacts. Winde (2009: 778)
states that uranium due to AMD related water contamination, may enter the
food chain, by irrigating vegetable gardens, irrigating crops, watering
livestock, using it for human consumption, commercial production or the
consumption of fish caught in water contaminated with mine affluent. Van
Eeden et al (2009: 55) further state that plants these metals readily absorbs
though their roots, and from there, they are passed on into the rest of the food
web. The same applies to crops grown for commercial purposes. Consumers
are potentially at risk to be exposed to radioactive food.
b. The Salinization debate
According to Turton (2008) consists AMD of a range of salts, with
concentrations as high as 3 grams per litre. When used for agriculture this
translates into a saline build-up in the soil profile, mostly of sulphates. The low
pH also mobilizes trace elements in the soil like aluminium. Liefferink (2011)
states that treated AMD water contains between 3000-4500 mg/l salts, where
the regulatory limit in South Africa is 600 mg/l (WHO standard is 200mg/l).
Neutralization may increase the ph of the water, extracting the acidity, but
high salt (sulphate) levels and toxic heavy metals remain. Untreated AMD
contaminated water is not suitable for irrigation or human consumption.
Treated AMD, however, may be used for certain crops (Nell. 2011).
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In the Blesbokspruit catchment area (Eastern Basin) over the last 14 years the
Grootvlei mine has only released treated mine water (Nell. 2011). The acidity
was increased from a PH of 2 to a PH of 7-7.5 before it was released into the
Blesbokspruit. Farmers downriver have been using this water for irrigation for
the last 14 years with no negative impact (Nell. 2011). In fact, when calcium is
added to this highly laden sulphuric water (high salinity) the soil value is
improved for crops. Nell (2011), furthermore states that treated AMD water
has been successfully used for the last 15 years on salt sensitive vegetable
crops. Even though high salinity could potentially be a problem, Nell (2011)
states that due to dilution downstream by the time it reaches the irrigation
point, it is so diluted that the water has very little salt per litre. Nell (2011)
further states that even when farmers have to use these high salinity water for
irrigation, due to Gautengs rainfall, the high salts in the soil washes away
quickly.
However, WRC Report 800/1/00 by Pilson, van Rensburg, et al (p viii) states
that salinization is a problem: The highest cost burden of combating salinity
is currently being carried by the household sector and not by industry as might
be expected (Pilson, van Rensburg & Williams. 2000: viii). The impacts of
neutralisation, that is the high sulphate loads upon the receiving environment
and the large volumes of heavy metal sludge residue, will be unacceptably
high. The costs and impacts will be unfairly and inequitably borne by
agricultural users, surrounding industries, domestic or potable users and the
aquatic ecosystem and environment. The aforesaid is conceived as the single
biggest flaw in the predictions report. The IMC Report does not state what
the impact will be on the environment of this high sulphate laden water, yet
recommends it for release, but somehow invokes the precautionary principle.
(Liefferink. 2011: 3).
c. Positive impact: Increased groundwater levels
There is some evidence that AMD in the Western Basin has increased
groundwater levels in adjacent dolomite aquifer compartments. This implies a
33 | P a g e

greater resource for irrigation (positive effect). Rivers previously dried up are
now flowing again due to AMD decant, so the fact that farmers have water
outweighs their concern that it is in fact acidic (Cobbing. 2011). However, it is
also possible that in the long run pollution derived from AMD may negatively
affect irrigation water quality. Cobbing (2011) states: The last survey I was
involved in (about 2007) did not pick up direct AMD contamination of
groundwater. Cobbing (2011) mentions, however, that the Blesbokspruit in
the Tarlton area is significantly polluted by AMD to potentially impact farmers
(Cobbing. 2011).
d. Impact on Gauteng agricultural water resources
AMD has long and short term effects on agricultural water resources in
Gauteng province. According to Turton (2011), is the short term effect a buildup of salts and a lowering of soil ph and the long term effect, the sterilization
of the soil, partly as a result of the precipitation of what is known as yellow
boy. This is a mineralization of manganese and iron oxide. This grows along
the stems of grasses and fossilizes them rapidly. Cobbing (2011) states that the
short term effects are limited, but that in the long run may compromise water
quality, and may also lead to increased risk of sinkholes in dolomite areas.
e. Impact of AMD on crop farming in Gauteng
This affects the crops that are grown if they are irrigated with polluted water
as this seeps into the soil. A reduced quality in crops will make them more
difficult to sell, especially to retailers/end users with high quality standards
e.g. Woolworths, the European Union etc (Funke. 2011). Acidic water due to
AMD has physical effects on crops in general. Elements or toxins such as
Cobalt, Cadmium, Uranium, Copper, Zinc, etc do occur in very small amounts
in water, but insufficiently to cause any problems. AMD contamination
heightens these levels dangerously. All metals in excess can be taken up by
plants. Irrigated crop farming may thus be affected if crops take up all these
toxic heavy metals. This uptake also decreases the fertility of the soil

34 | P a g e

(Liefferink. 2011). No crop can grow in untreated AMD, but in treated AMD
salt sensitive crops may actually benefit (Nell. 2011).
In the case of maize, South Africas staple crop, AMD contaminated water
with the lower pH causes two physiological things to occur. The meristematic
tip of the root cap stops dividing, so you get stunted roots. This makes the crop
drought prone and unable to take up the nutrients in the soil. The second thing
that happens is the pollen tubes become deformed. These are hollow tubes
through which the pollen grain must pass. With the deformations the pollen
cannot pass and so the seed does not set. This causes crop failures.
Extrapolated up to national level this means loss of food security over the
areas that are irrigated with any acidic water, not only AMD. This includes the
larger footprint of acid rain caused by Eskom power stations and the
combustion of coal in general (Turton. 2011).
f. Impact of AMD on subsistence farming in Gauteng
AMD water contamination affects subsistence farming communities in the
Witwatersrand. Many communities are located near or even on goldmine
tailings. Mine closure on the Witwatersrand has led to high unemployment.
Consequently, is subsistence farming often the last resort for such
communities, but AMD may render the available water resources unfit for
agricultural use (Oelofse et al. 2007: 622). The impacts here are possibly more
severe than for commercial irrigation farming as farmers are directly
dependent on these crops for their livelihoods, and crops of poor quality may
have negative health impacts. While not much research on the health impacts
of AMD has been done in South Africa do date, it is generally accepted that
these are negative and potentially long-term (Funke. 2011).
g. Impact of AMD on stock farming in Gauteng
AMD related water contamination has furthermore impacted stock farming in
Gauteng. Hobbs (2011: 6) acknowledges that there has been abnormally high
fish mortalities in January of 2011, at the Brook-wood Trout Farm located near
Kromdraai in the West rand, due to the low pH value that is indicative of,
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amongst other sources, a combination of very low pH mine water. Hobbs


(2011) stated that the water quality, due to AMD, decreased to such an extent
where it was no longer suitable for trout breeding and that the particular farmer
had to move his operations to Mpumalanga as the deteriorated water quality
could no longer be used to breed fish.
Case studies as early as 1967 in the FWR revealed the physical impact of
AMD contaminated water on animals and livestock. Infertility, sterility, birth
deformities, internal bleeding, and cancers were detected due to calcium
depletion in AMD contaminated water, as well as the presence of radioactive
uranium. Mr D. Brink (2008: 3-4), CEO of ABA also noted that all aquatic life
had died in the Tweelopies Spruit, that several animal mortalities (including
abortions) are linked to the mining pollution in the Tweelopies Spruit. In
particular, mentioning was made to the abortion of two rhinos and the death of
three buffalos worth more than a million rands. With regard to the
quantification of costs associated with the polluted water within the
Tweelopies Spruit, ABA submitted in May 2005 that their estimated
(preliminary) losses directly linked to the water pollution in the Tweelopies
Spruit are as follows: Mortalities = R289, 275; Lack of Breeding = R804, 874;
Damages to Gardens = R 50,000; Damages to Equipment = R 24,000 at a total
of R1, 168,149 (Brink. 2008: 10).
It has been reported that farm animals in the Western Basin have suffered
deficiencies due to AMD related uranium poisoning. Two headed, three
headed and headless calves have been reported. Jelly cows have also been
reported due to calcium depletion in AMD related uranium poisoning
(Liefferink. 2011). Liefferink (2011) states that cows when drinking from
AMD polluted water disturb the sediments where the uranium settles,
consequently cows drink the water contaminated with uranium. The uranium
in turn can be taken up in the milk of the cows, and when milked for human
consumption can endanger humans. Stoch (2011) however disagrees with this
assessment. .

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h. Impact or risks to farm workers in Gauteng


No data exists with regards to the possible impact that AMD may have on
farm workers. Cobbing states that there are risks to farm workers. Very few
farm workers have been affected according to Nell (2011).
i. Conclusion
AMD has a potentially damaging impact on agriculture in the Gauteng
province. Physical impact data are limited, but it can be concluded that AMD
negatively impacts agricultural water resources, soil, crops and livestock.
South Africa is a water scarce country. Water scarcity (availability), is further
exacerbated by pollution. Gold mining is the biggest polluter of South Africas
scarce water resources. In particular in the Witwatersrand, the gold mining
industry has left South Africa with a legacy of AMD contamination, which not
only impact the environment, but also South Africas ability for future
sustainable economic growth.
Chapter 6: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations
Summary
AMD related water contamination in the Witwatersrand of South Africa has
become a highly publicized and contentious issue in South Africa. The popular
media has exposed the true scale and extent of the problem with the assistance
from environmental activism. The South African government has come under
a huge amount of pressure to remediate the issue. Practical solutions have been
approved by the IMC on AMD. However the practical implementation is still
lacking.
The AMD problem has become a serious issue when the first decant in the
Western Basin of the Witwatersrand occurred in 2002. A huge amount of
scientific and physical impact studies on the natural environment have been
conducted. Social impact studies on communities and their livelihoods have
thus far been neglected.
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The results clearly show negative impacts on agriculture in Gauteng. The gap
in research with regards to the impact AMD contaminated water has on
agriculture, must be addressed in order to increase data that will clarify the
impact.
AMD is not going to disappear overnight. The public, however, is not aware of
the magnitude it potentially has on their health and livelihoods. Its a ticking
time bomb and research is important to educate and enlighten the public. The
research thus far has been toned down, and kept from the public to hide
inadequacies among the stakeholders to properly address this problem. At this
point the man on the street is not a stakeholder in this process, and therefore
needs to be informed, in order that he might become an active participant.
-End of ReportSoli Deo Gloria

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Western Basin in South Africa, International Journal of Water Resources Development, Vol.
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interview. 4 July.
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destruction threat of gold mining waste on the Witwatersrand - A West Rand case study.
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consideration of key emerging issues that may impact the state of the environment. Emerging
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(accessed on 28/6/2011).
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(accessed on 27/4/2011).
Perret, S. 2002. Water policies and smallholding irrigation schemes in South Africa: a
history and new institutional challenges - Working paper: 2002-19. Department of
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Pilson, R, van Rensburg, H.L, & Williams, C.J. 2000. An economic and technical
evaluation of regional treatment options for point source gold mine effluents entering the
Vaal Barrage catchment. WRC Report No. 800/1/2000. ISBN 1 86845 535 I.
Rssner, T & van Schalkwyk, A. 1999. The environmental impact of gold mine tailings
footprints in the Johannesburg region, South Africa. Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the
Environment (2000) 59: 137148. Available at: http://0www.springerlink.com.oasis.unisa.ac.za/content/0j2u19khphmuxrng/fulltext.pdf. (accessed
on 23/6/2011).
Stoch, E.J. 2005. Memorandum: Krugersdorp Game Reserve: Animal Mortality. V2. 13 May
2005. Received from M. Liefferink in personal communication.
Stoch, E.J. 2011. North West University. E-mail correspondence. 7 July.
The Expert Team of the Inter-Ministerial Committee under the Coordination
of the Council for Geoscience. 2010. Mine water management in the Witwatersrand gold
fields with special emphasis on Acid Mine Drainage: Report to the Inter-Ministerial
Committee on Acid Mine Drainage. Available at:
http://www.dwaf.gov.za/Documents/ACIDReport.pdf (accessed on 27/4/2011).
The US National Environmental Services Centre. 2000. Radionuclides: Tech Brief-A
National Drinking water clearing house fact sheet. Available at:
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.pdf. (accessed on 5/7/2011).
The Water Wheel. 2005. Research Seeks Answers for Century-Old Problem: Mine Water
Pollution. Water Research Commission. March/April 2005. pp 16-21. Available at:
http://www.pmg.org.za/files/docs/110621wrc3_0.pdf (accessed on 27/6/2011).
Turton, A, Schultz, G, Buckle, H, Kgomongoe, M, Malungani, T & Drackner, M. 2006.
Gold, Scorched Earth and Water:The Hydropolitics of Johannesburg. Water Resources
Development,Vol. 22, No. 2, pp 313335. June 2006.
Turton, A. 2008. Three Strategic Water Quality Challenges that Decision-Makers Need to
Know About and How the CSIR Should Respond. Report No.
CSIR/NRE/WR/EXP/2008/0160/A. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Pretoria.
Turton, A.R. 2009. South African Water and Mining Policy: A Study of Strategies for
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Appendix A
Controlled Questionnaires
1. Questionnaire: Completed by JE Cobbing
Instructions
1.

Please fill out the following questionnaire truthfully to the best of your knowledge.
(Start typing next to the word Answer in blue. The table will automatically expand)

2. Please provide full and explanatory answers.


3. Kindly provide any additional information and/or documentation that may
corroborate, confirm and or add to the answers given.
Questions
1

What are the effects of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) on water resources that
are used for agricultural practices? Specifically, what are the effects AMD
have on agriculturally assigned water resources in the Gauteng agricultural
area?
Answer: There is some evidence that AMD in the Western Basin has
increased groundwater levels in adjacent dolomite aquifer compartments.
This implies a greater resource for irrigation. However, it is also possible that
in the long run pollution derived from AMD may negatively effect irrigation
water quality. The last survey I was involved in (about 2007) did not pick up
direct AMD contamination of gw however.
What are the short term effects and the long term effects?
Answer: Short term: limited. Long term: may compromise water quality,
may also lead to increased risk of sinkholes in dolomite areas.
Please explain the physical effects of Acidic water due to AMD on crops in
general.
Answer: Id imagine effects would be bad, but dont know much about this
issue. As far as I know, no-one is irrigating with acidic water at present.
What is the impact of AMD on commercial irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer: Possible long term impacts on commercial viability
What is the impact of AMD on subsistence irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer: Possible long term impacts on viability, if water resource for
irrigation is compromised
How many hectares of planted crops have been lost or what percentage of
agricultural land has been lost in the Gauteng area due to AMD over the last
3 years?
Answer: As far as I know, none but I dont know much about this.
Does AMD have an effect on agricultural stock farming in Gauteng? If yes,
please explain what these effects are.
Answer: If poor quality AMD water is used for stock watering, Id imagine
effects would be poor. Note that there are guidelines for tolerances of
different types of animals for various water constituents.
Have farm workers been affected by AMD? How many farm workers in the

42 | P a g e

Gauteng have lost their jobs due to economic losses suffered by farmers due
to AMD?
Answer: None that I know of but risk is there.
What has been the effect of AMD on subsistence farmers in the Gauteng
area?
Answer: None that I know of but risk is there.
What are the long and short term strategies to solve the problem of AMD?
Answer: Answer to this would fill a book essentially there is still an
argument raging about what is to be done. In my opinion it will end in the
state being forced to shoulder costs of dewatering pumping and possibly
treatment too.
What is the legislation involved to manage this problem? Is it being enforced?
Answer: Good legislation exists (e.g. National Water Act, NEMA, etc) but
issues are complex and state has preferred dialogue up to now.

10

11

2. Questionnaire: Completed by A. Turton


Instructions
1.

Please fill out the following questionnaire truthfully to the best of your knowledge.
(Start typing next to the word Answer in blue. The table will automatically expand)

2. Please provide full and explanatory answers.


3. Kindly provide any additional information and/or documentation that may
corroborate, confirm and or add to the answers given.
Questions
1

What are the effects of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) on water resources that
are used for agricultural practices? Specifically, what are the effects AMD
have on agriculturally assigned water resources in the Gauteng agricultural
area?
Answer: AMD consists of a range of salts, with concentrations as high as 3
grams per litre. When used for agriculture this translates into a saline buildup in the soil profile, mostly of sulphates. The low pH also mobilizes trace
elements in the soil like aluminium. Google the words aluminium toxicity
maize and you will see a large literature about the latter. This has major
implications in a maize-based economy like in SA. It can lead to food
insecurtity at national level if left unmanaged.
What are the short term effects and the long term effects?
Answer: The short term effect is a build-up of salts and a lowering of soil pH.
The long term effect is the sterliziation of the soil, partly as a result of the
precipitation of what is known as yellow boy. This is a mineraliztion of
manganese and iron oxide. This grows along the stems of grasses and
fossilizes them rapidly.
Please explain the physical effects of Acidic water due to AMD on crops in
general.
Answer: In the case of maize, the lower pH causes two physiological things to
occur. The meristematic tip of the root cap stops dividing, so you get stunted
roots. This makes the crop drought prone and unable to take up the nutrients

43 | P a g e

10

11

in the soil. The second thing that happens is the pollen tubes become
deformed. These are hollow tubes through which the pollen grain must pass.
With the deformations the pollen cannot pass and so the seed does not set.
This causes crop failures. Extrapolated up to national level this means loss of
food security over the areas that are irrigated with any acidic water, not only
AMD. This includes the larger footprint of acid rain caused by Eskom
powerstations and the combustion of coal in general.
What is the impact of AMD on commercial irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer: Devastating as noted above.
What is the impact of AMD on subsistence irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer: Devastating as noted above.
How many hectares of planted crops have been lost or what percentage of
agricultural land has been lost in the Gauteng area due to AMD over the last
3 years?
Answer: This number is unknown but one can assume that the footprint
would include all irrigation land in the Orange, Olifants and Limpopo basis
that are downstream of AMD decant points.
Does AMD have an effect on agricultural stock farming in Gauteng? If yes,
please explain what these effects are.
Answer: AMD contains a host of dissolved minerals and metals. If uranium is
one of these, then the presence of uranium causes the uterus of pregnant
mammals to become hard and rigid. This means that it is unable to expand as
the foetus grows inside it causing what is known as spontaneous abortion.
Have farm workers been affected by AMD? How many farm workers in the
Gauteng have lost their jobs due to economic losses suffered by farmers due
to AMD?
Answer: This number is unknown as far as I am aware.
What has been the effect of AMD on subsistence farmers in the Gauteng
area?
Answer: See above.
What are the long and short term strategies to solve the problem of AMD?
Answer: There are many solutions at technical level. But this is not the issue.
The AMD debate is not about finding solutions it is about the gold industry
nationalizing its accumulated liability. Nobody understand this but this is the
root issue. Once the gold industry has forced the problem onto government, in
effect the liability will have been nationalised and then the coal miners will do
the same. Coal-AMD is many orders of magnitude larger than gold-AMD so
the liabilities are massive.
What is the legislation involved to manage this problem? Is it being enforced?
Answer: No. The issue is about nationalizing liability. The new NEMA might
have some scope to prosecute Directors of companies, but until now there has
been no political will to act. Remember the mining industry is the industry
that invented the idea of BEE. They have been very clever in avoiding
liabilities over time and BEE is just one of those strategies., It is about coopting the new political elite. Remember Brett Kebble gave a large financial
donation to the ANCYL and it is from this source of patronage that the call to
nationalize mining has come.

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12 Additional Information:
Feel free to contact me if you need more input.
3. Questionnaire: Completed by J.P Nell
Instructions
1.

Please fill out the following questionnaire truthfully to the best of your knowledge.
(Start typing next to the word Answer in blue. The table will automatically expand)

2. Please provide full and explanatory answers.


3. Kindly provide any additional information and/or documentation that may
corroborate, confirm and or add to the answers given.
Questions
1

2
3

What are the effects of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) on water resources that
are used for agricultural practices? Specifically, what are the effects AMD
have on agriculturally assigned water resources in the Gauteng agricultural
area?
Answer: Nie geskik vir besproeiing en dierlike gebruik (onbehandel)
What are the short term effects and the long term effects?
Answer: Versuring van die grond, korrosie van besproeiings toerusting
Please explain the physical effects of Acidic water due to AMD on crops in
general.
Answer:Geen akkerbougewas kan groei as dit onbehandelde AMD is
What is the impact of AMD on commercial irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer:Op hierdie stadium bitter min- ek dink mider as 5% van alle
besproeiingsgrond in Gauteng wat van besproeiing ontrek is kan aan AMD
toegeskryf word die grootste rede is diefstal van produkte en besproeiings
toerusting en arbeidsprobleme wat veral in die groente bedryf voorkom
What is the impact of AMD on subsistence irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer:Selfde as 4
How many hectares of planted crops have been lost or what percentage of
agricultural land has been lost in the Gauteng area due to AMD over the last
3 years?
Answer:Bitter min
Does AMD have an effect on agricultural stock farming in Gauteng? If yes,
please explain what these effects are.
Answer: Onbehandelde AMD is nie geskik vir dierlike gebruik
Have farm workers been affected by AMD? How many farm workers in the
Gauteng have lost their jobs due to economic losses suffered by farmers due
to AMD?
Answer:MIN
What has been the effect of AMD on subsistence farmers in the Gauteng
area?

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Answer:MIN
What are the long and short term strategies to solve the problem of AMD?
Answer:Behandel AMD m.a.w. verhoog die pH (suksesvol gedoen in die
Blesbokspruit-Grootvleimyn geval vir meer aas 15 jaar, waar dit suksesvol
gebruik is op selfs soutsensetiewe groente gewasse
What is the legislation involved to manage this problem? Is it being enforced?
Answer:

10

11

4. Questionnaire: Completed by N. Funke


Instructions
1.

Please fill out the following questionnaire truthfully to the best of your knowledge.
(Start typing next to the word Answer in blue. The table will automatically expand)

2. Please provide full and explanatory answers.


3. Kindly provide any additional information and/or documentation that may
corroborate, confirm and or add to the answers given.
Questions
1

What are the effects of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) on water resources that
are used for agricultural practices? Specifically, what are the effects AMD
have on agriculturally assigned water resources in the Gauteng agricultural
area?
Answer: The effects of AMD on water resources for agricultural practices
would be the same as the effects of AMD on all water resources in Gauteng:
high salinity levels, low pH and extreme pollution.
What are the short term effects and the long term effects?
Answer: This affects the crops that are grown if they are irrigated with
polluted water as this seeps into the soil. A reduced quality in crops will make
them more difficult to sell, especially to retailers/end users with high quality
standards e.g. Woolworths, the European Union etc.
Please explain the physical effects of Acidic water due to AMD on crops in
general.
Answer: Phil Hobbs can help
What is the impact of AMD on commercial irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer: Phil Hobbs can help
What is the impact of AMD on subsistence irrigation crop farming in
Gauteng?
Answer: The impacts here are possibly more severe than for commercial
irrigation farming as farmers are directly dependent on these crops for their
livelihoods, and crops of poor quality may have negative health impacts.
While not much research on the health impacts of AMD has been done in
South Africa do date, it is generally accepted that these are negative and
potentially long-term.
How many hectares of planted crops have been lost or what percentage of
agricultural land has been lost in the Gauteng area due to AMD over the last
3 years?

46 | P a g e

10

11

Answer: Dont know


Does AMD have an effect on agricultural stock farming in Gauteng? If yes,
please explain what these effects are.
Answer: Dont know
Have farm workers been affected by AMD? How many farm workers in the
Gauteng have lost their jobs due to economic losses suffered by farmers due
to AMD?
Answer: Phil Hobbs may be able to help
What has been the effect of AMD on subsistence farmers in the Gauteng
area?
Answer: See No. 5
What are the long and short term strategies to solve the problem of AMD?
Answer: Short term: treat water polluted by AMD to a level of acceptable
quality. Long term: this requires long term commitment by government and
mining companies and substantial financial investments. There may be a need
to look further than only treating water, but also looking at the impacts of
heavy metal deposits in South Africas surface and ground water resources.
AMD is a severe long term problem and cant be resolved by only treating its
symptoms.
What is the legislation involved to manage this problem? Is it being enforced?
Answer: See CSIR report on Governance and AMD, and CSIR report for
Rand Water.

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Appendix B
Photographs of a Tour of the Western Basin guided by M. Liefferink (9/7/2011)

Tudor Shaft Informal Settlement, built upon and adjacent to uraniferous tailings .

Tudor Dam. Radioactivity levels (WRC Report 1095/1/02): Between 10 000 and 100 000
Bq/kg. The regulatory limit is 500 Bq/kg.
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Mintails is currently re-mining these tailings dams using water cannons. AMD is
sprayed onto the tailings dams, which produces slurry. The slurry is transported in
tailings pipelines to the gold recovery plant where gold is recovered (leeched) using
cyanide. The residue is deposited in the West Wits Pit, an unlined pit with holings as a
result of historical mine workings. In the same area Mogale Alloys are operational. The
black deposits are manganese.

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12.5 Million Litres of Acid Mine Drainage (the decant) is treated per day by Rand
Uranium using lime and limestone. The pH is adjusted and the heavy metals
precipitate. The water that is flowing out of these pipes has been treated with lime. The
toxic and radioactive heavy metals are precipitating into the adjacent pit (the CPS Pit).
The water remains toxic since the sulphate levels are high (3 700mg/l). This water
thereafter flows in a trench into the Tweelopiespruit and into the receiving
environment. The first receptor dam is the Hippo Dam in the Krugersdorp Game
Reserve.

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Between 18 and 36 million litres of AMD decants per day from the flooded Western
Basin. During heavy rainfall 56 million litres of AMD decants per day. Only 12.5
million litres is treated, using lime dosing. The additional volumes flow uncontrolled
and untreated into the Tweelopiespruit (to the North) and seep into the
Wonderfonteinspruit (to the South.)

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Robinson lake. Colouration of stones, PH level of water 3. Low pH causes the


mobilization and solubilization of heavy metals including uranium. The U levels in the
Robinson Lake is 16mg/l which is 40 000 higher than U levels in fresh water. There is
no aquatic biota and it is a declared radioactive lake.

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Near Robinson lake. Spillage of treated water. Hardened soil. The water that was spilt or
which migrates from the unlined Robinson Dam into the receiving environment is AMD to
which lime has been added. The precipitate that forms on the soil is the heavy metals contained
in AMD.

The West Wits Pit. The white tailings are the residue after the gold has been leeched. The
tailings contain toxic and radioactive heavy metals. 30% of the AMD in the open cast pit (West
Wits Pit) translate into the Western Basin.
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One of the decant points (lowest topographical areas) namely the Black Reef Incline.
Water has decanted from this area since 2002. The water is contained in a lined dam
and pumped to the water treatment plant where lime is added. Only 12.5 Million Litres
of AMD is treated by Rand Uranium per day. The other areas of decant are 18 Winze
and 17Winze. The AMD decant from these areas flow uncontrolled and untreated into
the Tweelopiespruit.

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