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The real cost of water in South Africa

Is the world ready to pay the full price of water? Peter Shepherd, SRK Consulting partner and principle hydrologist, believes the answer is no. And he expects mining companies to be most hard hit by the rising water cost in future, writes Vicky Sidler.

Water is generally factored into the price of commodities, with over 80% of it currently being taken from nature for free from rivers or underground. “On a global average, 70% of water is used for irrigation, about 22% of it is used for industry and the rest is used domestically,” says Shepherd.

“Mining is a very big user of water,” he adds. In South Africa, mines use between 7 and 9 billion cubic metres per annum, totalling the combined amount Nigeria and Malaysia consume, which in turn equates to about R8 billion a year, including the operating cost of managing water in the mining area.

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