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Report fingers South Deep

Several reports, commissioned over the years by mining companies and Gauteng environmental authorities have highlighted the contaminated state of the Leeuwspruit, which drains the south shaft area of the South Deep mine, and ultimately flows into the Vaal River.

Farmers in Westonaria grow crops, farm fruit, grow flowers and pursue organic farming, run dairies and graze livestock, suing the streams downstream of mines to irrigate their land.

Communities settle along the streams and abstract the water for drinking and domestic purposes and their livestock drink from streams on properties where they graze.

A water management system report concludes the total pollution load of the Leeuwspruit downstream from the South Deep mine is greater than the combined total of the actual point discharges from the mine, indicating diffuse sources, such as the tailings dam, may be contributing to the loads of the pollution.

In general, reports show, the water being discharged from mines like South Deep to the Leeuwspruit and within it do not meet quality guidelines specified uses.

Comparison of the Leeuwspruit water quality upstream and downstream indicates possible contamination from tailings dam seepage, with reports highlighting sulphate, manganese and uranium as the main parameters of concern.

One report, entitled the Impact of South Deep Gold Mine on the Water Quality of the Borehole of Portion 48 of the Farm Kalbasfontein – Piet Rheeder’s farm – shows the discharges from two mines run by South Deep and Firs Uranium Corporation are playing a role in the deteriorated state of these waters.

His borehole water is acidic, with sulphate levels, electrical conductivity, manganese and magnesium levels elevated.

The outcome of a cost apportionment, which was carried out in 2001, determined that South Deep mine contributed 43 percent of the contaminant load to the stream from 1986 to 2001.

The electrical conductivity is an indicator of the total amount of inorganic salts that is dissolved in a water sample.

“It produces negative effects on plumbing and appliances when the water is heated, such as increased corrosion and scaling”, according to the report.

The magnesium concentrations, within the range the borehole water falls, will cause diarrhoea in sensitive users, it says. – Sheree Bega. Saturday Star. October 30, 2010.