Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mines plead poverty, ignorance - toxic mine water about to decant into Vaal and Orange River

In the past, pumps kept gold mines outside Johannesburg largely free of water because most water was pumped to the surface, partially treated and released into rivers. Now many of the gold mines have closed or can no longer afford to keep pumping, and vast underground areas are filling up.

Department of Water and Environmental Affairs spokesman Linda Page said: “They (the three companies ) have been given 90 days to stop discharging into the Tweelopie Spruit. Failure to do so will result in further action from the department.”

SHOOT: This is more serious than swine flu and the economy. Having your drinking water polluted is an immediate and urgent public health threat.
clipped from www.thetimes.co.za
Dubious warning: A Rand Uranium water-purifying station in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg. Uranium levels in the area have reached an all-time high. Picture: Kevin Sutherland

A river of acid water — enough to fill 600 swimming pools a day — has flooded old gold mines west of Johannesburg and is just days away from spilling over, causing an environmental disaster.

Long-term exposure to the poisoned water poses major health risks, including increased rates of cancer, skin lesions and retarded brain development.

An overflow of toxic mine water in the past led to radioactive contamination of Robinson Lake — a fishing and picnic area that has now become lifeless — outside Randfontein on the West Rand.

Acidic water is also dissolving huge areas of underground rock, threatening the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site.

If left unchecked, this water could also decant and contaminate water that ultimately flows into the Orange River.

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