The threat of acid mine drainage decant from the largest source of gold mining-contaminated water – the Witwatersrand basins –will soon be completely under control. With two plants successfully pumping and treating millions of litres of AMD every day from the Western and Central Basins, it’s full steam ahead in the third phase to build the largest R950 million treatment plant yet – for the Eastern Basin, writes Laura Cornish.

Never before has a water treatment project of such scale (valued at R2.5 billion) been undertaken – to treat millions of litresof hazardous, contaminated water –rising to surface from the underground open voids of century-old defunct goldmines. The very gold mines which overtime gave birth to the Johannesburg economy started in 1886.

Today, 128 years later, there is nothing left to show for the hundreds of decades of mining activity which brought huge riches to the area –except a legacy of unconscious but irresponsible behaviour (nonetheless) which led to the massive water ‘potential-crisis’. Fortunately, blame has been laid aside in response to the urgent need to prevent contaminating the Vaal River System. South Africa’s Water Affairs Department, through it sspecial liability management vehicle TCTA, will oversee the construction of customised AMD treatment plants to put the problem to bed – in the short-term.

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