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Mine rehab ‘will take 2900 years’

2 September 2010 at 11:43 am

Abandoned mines pose a threat to surrounding communities as rising toxic acid mine water becomes heavily pollutant.

Business Day, 2 September 2010

CAPE TOWN — It could take SA about 2900 years to fully rehabilitate all 5 906 derelict and abandoned mines if the Department of Mineral Resources continues at its present pace, MPs were told yesterday.

Abandoned mines pose a threat to surrounding communities as rising toxic acid mine water becomes heavily pollutant.

The department has rehabilitated only five mines in the past two-and-a-half years . The auditor- general has found that the department lacks a comprehensive strategy and the capacity to deal with the issue. Addressing a joint sitting of the standing committee on public accounts, and the mineral resources portfolio committee, the director-general of the department, Sandile Nogxina, admitted that the pace of implementation is not what it should be .

“Government has today expanded the inter ministerial task team that deals with the issue to include other departments such as science and technology ,” he said.

“The department was not capacitated to deal with the function of rehabilitation as we are primarily a regulatory, licensing and policy-formulation department, the new responsibility was not reflected in our budget,” he said.

The department’s plan to rehabilitate the polluting mines is “virtually nonexistent”, said ANC MP Roy Ainslie. “It seems it was put together yesterday because it was anticipated we would ask about an implementation plan.”

Mr Ainslie said according to his calculations, cleaning up SA’s 5906 abandoned mines will take about 2900 years if the programme continues at its current rate. The cost of the clean-up was estimated at R30bn.

Mr Nogxina said that most of the damage was done in the past, when miners where not required to rehabilitate mines, and “retrospectively applying the law will not be beneficial in my opinion ”.

Part of the plan is to prioritise mines according to their environmental and health risks, Mr Nogxina said.

Thus asbestos mines will be prioritised and deep gold mines will follow. With Sapa

http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=119804