Acid Mine Drainage: hearings (day 1)

Water and Sanitation

20 June 2011
Chairperson: Mr J de Lange (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Members were briefed on the status of acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand area. In the Western Basin large amounts of water were being discharged into the river system, less than half of which was treated in any way. This was causing serious damage to the environment. In the Eastern Basin, untreated water had been pumped into the watercourse system to keep the Grootvlei mine commercially viable. The situation was not as critical in the Central Basin, but water levels were rising steadily and would pose a threat to the environment in the near future. Krugersdorp Nature Reserve was no longer a functioning ecosystem

A task team and a team of experts had been established. The situation was not unique to the Witwatersrand and there was already a lot of knowledge in the area. The short-term solution was to neutralise the water before releasing it into the system. Some new infrastructure would be needed to increase the capacity to treat acid mine drainage water. While this was being implemented, work had to be done on desalination facilities as there was still a high sulphate content in neutralised water. The Departments of Water Affairs and Mineral Resources were aware that problems were developing in other provinces as well.

Members were told that there had been little or no environmental legislation in the past, allowing mine owners to act irresponsibly. Members felt that the polluters should pay for the costs of treating water and repairing harm to ecosystems rather than the public. Many of the mines were abandoned and it was difficult to trace ownership. One case was proceeding in the Eastern Basin. Damage was already being done to the environment and urgent attention was needed. An environmental levy would also be considered to help to pay for the costs involved.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed those present to the start of the public hearings on acid mine drainage (AMD). This was not a new phenomenon but had been accentuated by the heavy summer rainfall in Gauteng.  The Committee had engaged on the matter. A report had been completed and would be discussed. Members would meet with the mine owners the following week. There would be a roster of report-back meetings to gauge progress. The experts would take Members through the reports. Various figures had been bandied about. It was a cross-cutting issue.

Acid Mine Drainage (AMD): Overview by Department of Water Affairs
Mr Trevor Balzer, Acting Director-General, Department of Water Affairs (DWA), introduced the delegation. The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), National Treasury and several other bodies were represented. In 2010 Cabinet had established an Inter-Ministerial Committee, which had appointed a team of experts chaired by the Director-General of the DWA. Experts from the industry and academics were included in this team. The terms of reference were to assess what had been done, reappraise the risk, assess available solutions, determine the visibility and costs of short-term interventions, propose sustainable medium and long term solutions and to explore partnerships with the private sector. The task team had already reported to the Inter-Ministerial Committee. In February 2011 Cabinet had accepted the recommendations. These recommendations included measures to reduce the ingress of water into mines, steps to prevent decanting, water quality management, improving monitoring and research, managing other AMD sources and investigating an environmental levy.

Mr Henk Coetzee, Specialist Scientist, Council for Geoscience, said that the information contained in the first presentation was that which was available at the time the report was presented to the Inter-Ministerial Committee. Updated information would be included in later presentations. He re-emphasised the terms of reference of the task team. He named some of the experts who had been included in the investigation team. The task team reported to the Inter-Ministerial Committee.

Mr Coetzee said that several scientific bodies and universities had conducted AMD research. There was sufficient information both locally and internationally. Targeted research was still need to fill the gaps. Almost all countries involved in mining had experienced AMD. The experts had been asked to reappraise the risks due to flooding, which could compromise the quality of shallow groundwater resources, lead to instability of the land, threaten foundations and infrastructure, and induce seismicity. The risks associated with AMD decant were threats to water security, contamination of aquatic systems and the compromise of natural resources.

Mr Coetzee said that there were three areas of concern in the Witwatersrand region. The Western Basin was the Krugersdorp area. AMD was decanting to the surface and impacting on the Cradle of Humankind. Urgent intervention was required. The Central Basin was the area around Johannesburg.  Pumping had stopped in October 2008. Water levels were rising and immediate intervention was needed to ensure that pumps were installed by March 2012. The Eastern Basin was in the Benoni area. The water level there was also rising after pumping had stopped in January 2011. AMD had also been reported on coal mines in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, and the copper mines in the Northern Cape.

Mr Coetzee said that predictions were that unless the situation was addressed, AMD would be decanting in the Central Basin by May 2013. The likely area was Boksburg. The rate of water rising was 0.59 metres a day. The pH balance in the Eastern Basin was within DWA guidelines but below recommended levels for industrial use in the other areas. The same pattern applied for electrical conductivity levels. In all areas, the levels of total dissolved solids, sulphate and iron were above recommended levels. The Western Basin was the worst affected region. There had been a steady increase in the number of seismic events as the affects of AMD had become more apparent.

Mr Coetzee that three short-term options had been considered. The first was to allow mines to flood and decant. This would lead to uncontrolled decanting and polluted water. The second option was to build tunnels to create an artificial decant situation. This would not solve the pollution problem. In both these cases, processes would have to be put in place to discharge untreated water, neutralise, desalinate, and treat AMD on site or to apply passive treatment. The third option was to pump water in order to maintain present levels. Pumping from below the environmentally critical level (ECL) would protect underground workings in the Central and Eastern Basins, while pumping from the ECL would protect the environment in the Western Basin.

Mr Coetzee said that there was an implementation plan in place. The first action was to install the infrastructure to lower or maintain water levels in the mine voids and construct new or upgraded treatment facilities. This needed to be done immediately in the Western and Central Basin while developments at the Grootvlei mine in the Eastern Basin would be monitored. The delivery period was between six and twelve months. The second action was continuous monitoring of water and geotechnical impacts. This would commence immediately. The infrastructure should be in place within a year. The prevention of ingress should also commence immediately and interventions should be identified within a year. Finally, stakeholder engagement should take place after the Inter-Ministerial Committee meeting. This was on an ongoing basis.

Mr Coetzee presented some budget figures. Pumping would require a capital expenditure (CAPEX) of R12.8 million with annual operating costs of R70 million. CAPEX for treatment plants would be R160 million with operating costs of R40.9 million. Ingress prevention would entail CAPEX of R251 million, with longer term costs of over R626 million. The budgeted CAPEX for monitoring systems was R17 million, with operating costs of R10 million. This was a total budgeted CAPEX of R441 million with operating costs of R121 million. The DWA had made a provision budgetary allocation of R75 million for the 2011/12 financial year (FY) and R150 million for 2012/13. This was for design and construction of mine water management infrastructure.
Mr Coetzee said that a number of recommendations had been accepted by Cabinet. The first was that decanting should be prevented by pumping. The second was to implement ingress control measures. The third was to improve water quality management by neutralisation and desalination in the short term and removal of salt loads from river systems in the medium to long term. The fourth recommendation was to improve the monitoring system and undertake research. The fifth was to manage and monitor other AMD sources such as slimes dams. Finally, an environmental levy should be implemented on operating mines to help cover the costs of the negative legacy of mining activities.

Mr Coetzee said that Cabinet had accepted the recommendations. The internal task team and team of experts had been set up to drive the process. The blue sky research had been done. Recommendations could now be made and solutions could be optimised. A natural system had been modified by human activities. There were changes in rainfall patterns. Some research was being done at universities. Mine dumps and other features acted as diffuse sources of AMD.

Mr Coetzee said that the option of imposing a levy had been discussed. This had been done in the United States of America (USA).

In response to the Chairperson asking who was responsible for management of this process in the USA, Mr Coetzee said that this was done by federal government.

The Chairperson said that it had been claimed that the situation in South Africa was different to the rest of the world.

Mr Coetzee replied that this was so. Witwatersrand gold ore had a uranium content which could be recovered. This was not really unique to the Witwatersrand, but the scale of the problem was.  Volume was the issue given the network of mines in the area. This also happened in coal mining areas. There had been much research on uranium and its consequences. The mineral contained a number of heavy metals. The process of removing metals from the water would also extract the uranium. There were specific monitoring programmes. The area to the west of Carltonville was the most prominent. The process of treatment would remove the hazardous substances. Monitoring was ongoing. The problem metal was manganese as this was not easy to remove. The result of the process was solid waste, and this had to be addressed.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that AMD was not a new issue. He asked what measures DWA had put in place. He asked what difficulties the DWA had with the matter. Was there a policy that compelled mining companies to comply, such as a fine?

Mr G Morgan (DA) said the presentation was a good overview. There would be future interaction. He presumed that a number of different options had been considered. He was particularly interested in the neutralisation process that would follow. He presumed that lime would be used to reduce pollutants to solid waste. The previous Minister had put R6 million into this process. He asked why neutralisation remained an option considering the large amount of heavy sediment that was left behind. This was appallingly dirty and dangerous to the environment. He had seen the results of lime treatment in the Krugersdorp area. Secondly, as the external environment was being impacted, neutralisation might change the pH balance for the better but other things were changed as well. He had not seen an impact assessment in the report. There were downstream users such as the Krugersdorp Nature Reserve. If this was not being done, he asked how it could be justified. There was a clear liability on some mines although this was a matter of dispute. Offences were being committed. The water was being altered further, leaving a by-product. There were now two transgressors. He wanted to follow the entire thought process. It was a fascinating problem. It was possibly the best example of an environmental externality. The cost of non-treatment of water was being passed on to the environment and people. He asked why the taxpayer was paying anything towards this. There was an extreme degree of urgency, but polluters had made this happen. The people of South Africa had to pay the price. The National Water Act was clear that the polluter had to pay the costs of cleansing the water.

The Chairperson felt that these were vital questions. He wanted to be told of the different costs between neutralisation and desalination. He was concerned by Mr Morgan's questions, and in fact his comments were understated. Untreated water had been flowing into river systems, unless this was a media fabrication. He asked what tests had been done on the various water sources. If tests were done regularly, the impact could be seen.

Mr Coetzee said that desalination would produce 6.5 grams of solids for every litre. The Western Basis treatment plant was receiving 30 Ml per day. There was a well-established process of taking the water, of oxidising and removing the iron content. Lime and limestone reduced the cost of treatment and corrected the pH balance. A process of separation followed. The current recommendation was to discharge the waste.  Normally the waste product was produced by the product under discussion. Waste was being produced, and it was a question of what was practicable. 

The Chairperson asked why it had not been considered to use the contaminated water for industry.

Mr Coetzee said that the Krugersdorp Nature Reserve was no longer a functioning ecosystem. This extended some way downstream. There had been feasibility studies. The cost for neutralisation was approximately R3 to 5 per cubic metre. There were other estimates for desalination of R10 to 15. They were talking of 60 Ml per day.

Dr S Huang (ANC) thanked the specialist team. Long term costs had been mentioned but not the short and medium term costs. He asked what the definition of long term was. The costs were estimated at over R630 million. Pumping costs were R17 million, and he asked if this was an annual cost. The Inter-Ministerial Committee had to find solutions. Prospecting licences were a big issue which the Department was battling to solve. It was important to note that the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) was linked with DWA.

Mr Marius Keet, Acting Director:
Water Quality Management, DWA, said that an immediate time frame had been defined of 0 to 4 months. TCTA would deal with this. Short term was considered up to a year, and long term up to the year 2014. Acid and metals would be removed, but the released water would still contain sulphates. No water was being pumped at present into the Vaal River. There was a reconciliation study which showed that by 2014 there would not be enough clean water available to mix with the contaminated water. By 2014 the contaminated water would have to be removed from the system and desalinated.

The Chairperson thought that the problem was only arising when the contaminated water reached a certain level. He asked if this was because the water reached a certain level and contaminated the ground water, or if there were other contaminations. He asked if government was taking any steps in other parts of the country. He knew of one mine,
East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM), that had stopped pumping. He asked if any other mines had started treating contaminated water and then stopped, or if any were still pumping. He also wanted to know which mines were taking no responsibility.

The Chairperson asked if neutralisation would be the only treatment until 2014.

Mr Keet said that neutralisation was the first step of desalination. The desalination plants would be running by 2014.

The Chairperson said that rivers were dying already.

Mr Keet said that the only challenge was in the Western Basin. Nothing was coming from the mines in the other areas. In the short term, one of the treatment plants would be upgraded. It would be operational within four months.

Mr Keet said it was complicated to name mines. Most of those on the West Rand were operational and were aware of the issue. He hoped that plants would be up and running by the time these mines closed. Treatment plants were in place but had to be extended. Weekly monitoring was taking place. The AMD started on the Western Basin. Rand Uranium, Durban Roodepoort Deep and Mintails were closed. There was good cooperation from Rand Uranium and Mintails, but Durban Deep was reluctant. Rand Uranium had a treatment plant but did not have the capacity to treat all of the basin. There were approximately 30 Ml emanating from the area, of which only 12 Ml was partially treated.

The Chairperson wanted to know which mine was to blame.

Mr Keet said it was difficult to apportion blame. It was coming from the property of Rand Uranium. In the Central Basin, ERPM had pumped 60 Ml of neutralised water into the Klip River. They were no longer pumping. It was always a marginal mine, subsidised by government. They had two casualties due to gases. The pump station had been flooded in October 2008 and the pumping had stopped. There was a new company, Central Rand Gold (CRG), looking to mine up to 400 m below the surface. They were not part of the legacy and were willing to take the correct measures. On the Eastern Basin, Grootvlei Mine had stopped pumping in February. Financial problems had seen it changing hands regularly. Aurora had also stopped operations. All the mines in that area were subsidised. The monthly cost was R8 million per month.

The Chairperson wanted the facts. He now had a problem mine in each Basin.

Mr Coetzee said there was an operation at Sub Nigel Mine in the Eastern Basin. Ownership was being transferred. Operations would be pegged to a certain depth to prevent further ingression. In essence there were two problems with groundwater contamination. Water was flowing from the groundwater into the mines and became contaminated, and was decanted. At a certain point mine water began to recharge the aquifers and filtered through to the groundwater. In the Centre Basin it was found that the zone of influence was limited. There were dolomitic aquifers in the Western and Eastern basins, but the problem did not seem to be too bad where mining was taking place under layers of dolomite.

Mr Coetzee said that the lowering of the water level to below the critical level would reduce the scope of the problem. The Western Basin could be reduced to a safe level depending on the volume pumped.

Mr Keet said that most of the AMD being decanted would be dealt with in the next few months. The upcoming dry season would also mitigate the problem.

The Chairperson asked when a safe level could be reached.

Mr Keet did not have the answer. TCTA was busy investigating. He estimated that it could be up to two years.

Mr Morgan wanted absolute clarity that the neutralisation mention in the task team report was different to the neutralisation reported in January 2010. He understood that the by-product would now be captured on site. This was important. He really wanted the Department to engage on the rationale of the taxpayer having to foot the bill. The polluters were not paying for the cleansing process.

The Chairperson noted a court case involving Aurora Mining.

Ms Ntokozo Ngcwabe, Acting Deputy Director General: Minerals Policy and Promotion, DMR, said that a few things had to be highlighted. The answers hinged around the indisputable fact that AMD was a legacy problem. People owned land in the past from the crust to the skies, and could do with the land as they pleased. The same applied to mines. Companies left the mess behind and moved on. Mines had latent impacts which could last for hundreds of years. There had not been clear legislation to force companies to repair the damage done. The first legislation only made provision for sites to be fenced off. Even mining methods were primitive. There was no design to prevent AMD. The problem existed throughout the country, but particularly in the Witwatersrand. There was a big void of interconnecting mines. This made it difficult to point fingers at a particular mine. It was very difficult to assess the situation underground. It was a very complex situation. The DMR had to look at volumes. A lot of work in the form of focussed research was needed. The Department had been funding research since 2003. The first question was to identify the ingress points. Some 108 shafts had been sealed on the East Rand. The Florida Canal was one of the solutions. TCTA was determining volumes with thorough research. The State had to give effect to Section 24 (Environment) of the Constitution. The mines were now doing something. Data was being shared. There would be less of a burden on the taxpayer in the future. There were health and safety challenges at ERPM. The Department would not accept any deaths. Grootvlei was a matter for the courts. If the company was liquidated, it was an issue for the courts. The Department had decided to stop pumping due to the dangers facing people manning the pumps.

Mr Skosana was a bit worried if people were given land to mine without legislation.

Dr Huang still wanted to know how DMR could control its operations when it had such a backlog of prospecting applications. It was impossible to control mines that had closed. He asked how the expenditure on AMD could increase from R250 million to R650 million in such a short time.

Mr Morgan said the issue of liability was less complicated at Aurora. Until recently Aurora had pumped untreated water into a watercourse to keep water below a certain level. There was still a lot of ore to be mined. On the West Rand water had come to the surface naturally, but Aurora had pumped the untreated water to maintain its operations. Directives and notices had been issued, but they had not been heeded. At least the pumping had now stopped. He asked what was being done to hold Aurora accountable. He asked if there would be criminal charges. It was an important issue.

The Chairperson asked if the DMR did not know how big the voids were, and how much water might be in the system. If the short term plan was implemented, neutralised water would be pumped into rivers until 2014. Only then would the water be treated. He asked why uses were not being found for the water. He wanted to know more about ingress and if there were known solutions. The other sources of contamination, such as slimes dams, needed to be dealt with. He did not need the detail, but wanted assurance that there was a plan in place.

Mr Balzer said that the criminal case regarding Aurora was continuing. A charge had been laid with the South African Police Service (SAPS). DWA was waiting for advice on whether the directors of the liquidators or the mine owners should be charged, or both. The date of 2014 came from a reconciliation study for the Vaal system. This was the date when there would no longer be sufficient water to dilute incoming contaminated water. The long term solution had to be in place by then. Desalination might be the outcome in all probability. National Treasury had indicated it wanted to see public-private partnership (PPP) options. Feasibility studies were still needed. The Inter-Ministerial Committee had instructed DWA to deal with short and medium term solutions, but Cabinet had asked for long term answers. A request for proposals had been issued.

Mr Keet said that alternate use was an option, but it would not be economically viable to pump water from deep levels. It could be used for any purpose. The mines were also interested in using the water. In the east and central areas Ergo was in discussion with DWA and would use the water for slimes dams.

Ms Ngcwabe said there was legislation in place, and the polluter would pay. The Minerals Act of 1991 was the first to hold companies liable for impact on the environment. This Act required the payment of a deposit which the state could use for rehabilitation. The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) strengthened this policy. The DMR was still dealing with legacy issues from older mines. The DMR had prioritised Mpumalanga. A moratorium on prospecting rights was in place to prevent a similar situation arising. She was praying a lot about the Aurora issue. There was a relationship with the liquidators. DMR was becoming tougher on environmental issues. The whole process was being revamped. Amendments to the MPRDA were being prepared. About R20 million was being spent on research. Mine planning had to include a design to minimise environmental impact.

The Chairperson said that a single government policy was needed on environmental issues. Three Departments were involved. Mining could start before a water licence was issued. It was important that the three Departments should be aligned. A protocol should be in place. This would boost investor confidence.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) asked what would happen if the Aurora mine could not be sold.

The Chairperson replied that the responsibility would fall on the liquidators.

Mr Morgan said that the Committee had produced legislation to compel environmental compliance, but it had never been implemented. It was not possible for a member of the public, or even a Member of Parliament, to get information from the Department as it might affect share prices. Even an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) had only produced half an answer. He could not judge the Department given the lack of information.

Ms Ngcwabe said the powers to recognise the Amendment resided with the President. There were constant workshops between DMR, DWA and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on the subject. An integrated licensing system had been considered. She would discuss the restrictions on information with the Director-General.

The Chairperson saw how sensitive information could affect share prices. However, information should be provided to Members even if it was made clear that it should be kept confidential. He requested a report in three months on progress towards establishing a protocol.

AMD Presentation by Department of Water Affairs
Mr Marius Keet, Acting Director:
Water Quality Management, DWA, presented a time line of key events. On 1 September 2010 the DWA made the first report on AMD. A week later the task team was established. On 30 September the task team made its first report. By 15 December a final report was made. On 6 April the TCTA was directed to implement recommendations. The first was to prevent decanting, the second to prevent ingress and the third was to remove acids and salts. Desalination would be a medium to long term solution. A lot of monitoring was being done but more coherence was needed. A committee had been established. They were dealing with point sources of pollution as well as other sources such as slimes dams. An environmental levy would be investigated.

Mr Keet said that in the Eastern Basin, Aurora had been pumping between 80 and 100 Ml per day to prevent the water table from rising. The Grootvlei mine had been liquidated. Underground water was at 629 m below surface level on 15 May. It was difficult to find an investor given all the baggage it was carrying.

Mr Keet said that the Central Basin was in the Johannesburg area. There were separate mines, but they shared a common compartment. Rising water affected all mines. All the sub-basins had risen to the same level. Most mines were non-operational and a state liability. Only CRG was interested in mining at that level, and others at a shallower level. No-one was pumping from the basin. The water level was rising slowly. 400 metres was considered an economical level. The rate of rise was 0.59 m per day. The ECL would be reached in June 2012 and decanting would occur from March 2013. Interventions might see the ECL reached only in January 2013. Pumps needed to be installed at the right time.

Mr Keet said that there were several non-operational mines in the Western Basin. Rand Uranium was pumping 12 Ml of treated water and approximately 20Ml of untreated water a day into the Crocodile catchment area.

Mr Keet said that pumps had been installed. A treatment plant would be constructed in each basin. Infrastructure would be created for moving the treated water. There was a question over the management of the treatment plants. There had been discussions with TCTA. Areas of cooperation had been identified. Potential solutions would be evaluated. There had been an infrastructure review.

Mr Keet presented an action plan. The first priority was to reduce or eradicate surface decant. This had to happen as soon as possible. Solutions had to be engineered to prevent an increase in the level of water in the Central Basin. Pumps were expected by July 2011 but some work was needed before they could be taken into operation.

Mr Keet said that ingress management was needed. The Florida Canal was one measure to minimise ingress. A monitoring committee was established involving all role players. A predictive capacity was needed to prevent future problems. The inter-governmental task team would study the implications of introducing a levy.

The Chairperson said the taxpayer was already paying. The levy would be a political question. It would not solve the problem if the levy was going straight into the National Revenue Fund.

Mr Keet said that risks were being identified. The first was that the private sector might exploit solutions for commercial benefit. Regulation was needed. The second risk was the time frame. Realistic dates must be set. There was a media risk. All stakeholders had to be kept informed. Liaising with the liquidators of Grootvlei was still a challenge. There was a lack of reliable monitoring data. There were so many regulations, guidelines and Acts but TCTA would have to be regulated. The mining industry was trying to distance itself from its liabilities. The environmental management plans (EMPs) had to be revised. The National Water Act should be invoked. The impact of the discharge of treated water had to be assessed.

Mr Keet said that information gaps had to be identified. A due diligence study had to be completed by the end of May. Land might have to be appropriated and service providers appointed. A long term use for mine water was to be identified. Proper engagement with provincial and local government was needed. Progress reports were needed.

Mr Balzer said that the task team had been set up to feed into the ministerial task team. The membership had since been increased to include local government in the area. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) would be invited as well, and also the Gauteng Departments of Agriculture and  Environment. He would provide a diagrammatic representation of the role players.

Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) presentation
Mr Johann Claassens, Executive Manager: Project Management and Implementation, TCTA, said that TCTA was a special purpose vehicle to finance bulk water projects. It had received a mandate on AMD from the Minister of Water Affairs in April. Various emergency interventions were needed. A review of the infrastructure in the three Basins was needed and solutions put into place to address shortcomings. The responsibility for maintenance of systems lay with DWA and TCTA would assist. The R225 million funding would come from National Treasury. It could expropriate land on the delegated authority of the Minister.

Mr Claassens said that the Minister could add more functions. TCTA was a project management organisation. Several tasks were outsourced to service providers. A tender had been issued on 8 April. BKS had been identified as a service provider, and the contract was awarded on 9 May. The first step was a due diligence review. Normally there would first be a detailed feasibility study. The end product was to have preliminary indications to the technical solutions. In the Western Basin an immediate solution was needed. Detailed design would follow, leading to an open tender process. The critical date was 17 July.

Mr Claassens said that there had been discussions with role players in the Western and Central Basins. There was a problem in the Eastern Basin with ownership. TCTA would need to enter into legal agreements with mine owners. Access to land would be needed. Expropriation was a last option. Funding options were being explored. Users of the treated water could share in the costs.

Mr Claassens showed an aerial photograph of the area in the Western Basin. The ECL had been set at 160m below the collar of Shaft 8, from where they would be pumping. There was decant at present, so 160m would have to be pumped. There was already a decant. The peak flow was in summer and had been recorded as high as 60 Ml per day. The system would have to cope with seasonal peaks. The three options were considered, and the favoured one was a treatment plant at Rand Uranium. Capacity would be increased to R30 Ml per day. The capital cost was R25 million, and annual operating costs would be R52 million.

Mr Claassens said that they could not yet predict when the ECL might be reached. The plan was to treat 30 Ml.

The Chairperson said that the one year solution depended on the amount of water to be pumped to stop the decant. He asked if it was possible to calculate how much water there was.

Mr Claassens said it was not known how much water had to be removed. It might be done by 2013. There were infrastructure limitations. Construction of the second plant would start in January 2012.

The Chairperson was bewildered by the complexity of the procedure. There was an immediate need to stop the pollution of the environment.

Mr Claassens said the current plant was in poor maintenance. It might be better to build a new plant from scratch.

Mr Claassens said that CRG had an interest in keeping the water level below 400 m. They would provide the pumps for the project if TCTA could maintain their operation. The mine should make a pro rata contribution to treatment costs. Durban Roodepoort Deep needed 20 Ml a day and there were other potential customers. This would minimise the state's contribution to costs.

Mr Claassens said the Eastern Basin had not been considered in detail. The level would have to be deeper for commercial mining. Arrangements would have to be studied in detail. The target date for the due diligence study was 7 July. Tenders should be awarded by October and he hoped to see a contractor commissioned in the Western Basin by November. Accelerated processes were needed considering the urgency of the project. Timely regulatory and environmental approvals were needed. The state of infrastructure was poor and significant capital investment was needed. Institutional arrangements were complicated. There was no indication that there would be restricted access to land or costs for the use of equipment. The state would have a residual cost.

Mr Claassens said that there was not a figure yet. He hoped to have one by July. R225 million would not be enough. He expected the final cost to be more like R750 million.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would hear the National Treasury presentation the following day, after which Members could interrogate the presentations made by DWA and TCTA.

The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: