A disaster quietly unfolding on the West Rand is moving rapidly towards the Crocodile River which flows through the RNC.

Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), the toxic and dangerous water that started overflowing from disused mine-shafts near Krugersdorp at the end of January, is flowing into the streams that feed the Crocodile River and the Tweelopies Spruit, the source of Potchefstroom’s water.

On 30 January, Mariette Liefferink, executive director of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE, of which the RNC is a member), took a delegation of interested parties to see what this AMD was all about. This poisonous water comes from the flooding of underground caverns in disused mines where it absorbs the sulphates and heavy metals in the rock left behind. Untreated, the underground pollution flows out of whatever vent it can find, specifically disused mineshafts.

Millions of litres of this polluted water are now flowing daily out of two shafts towards the Limpopo (via the Crocodile River) and Vaal River catchment areas.

“The environmental damage being caused is irreversible and the ramifications enormous,” Liefferink said.

Besides the above-surface damage, the polluted water is also rapidly eating away the sub-surface dolomitic stone, causing cavities and new sinkholes (there are already more than 4 000) across the West Rand - one of the consequences of more than a century of exploitation by mining companies.

This West Rand basin is one of four compartments stretching along the Witwatersrand and the first to vomit out its toxic contents. “At the rate this polluted stream is moving, the Witwatersrand, including Johannesburg will become a second Grand Canyon,” said one West Rand resident who has been monitoring AMD for more than a decade. More information: www.fse.org.za.


Poisonous water flowing over the veld near the Krugersdorp Game Reserve