WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) welcomes the 2013 Budget's clear indication of the government's commitment towards addressing the increasing problem of acid-mine drainage (AMD) and derelict mines. However, the organisation is disappointed at the level of expenditure allocated to addressing this key threat to the country's water security.
The planned expenditure on AMD and derelict mines from the 2013 Budget is R150 million, this is short of the R30 billion estimated by the auditor general in 2009. There are currently nearly 6000 derelict mines in the country. The longer we wait to address this issue, the more it is going to cost the South African taxpayer in the long term.
In addition, the issue continues to be compounded by loopholes in mining legislation relating to provision for mining rehabilitation. Last year, WWF-SA released a report* on the finance required to rehabilitate South Africa's mines. The report identified key loopholes in the current methods to work out how much money is required post-closure to ensure a safe environment. The current methods used do not account for long-term water treatment, resulting in a situation in which the taxpayer is forced to foot the bill for long-term rehabilitation on behalf of mining companies.
Still planning to mine in highly water-sensitive areas
We are already struggling to address the current threat of AMD in the Witwatersrand and Olifants catchments, yet we are still planning to mine in highly water-sensitive areas. As a water-scarce country, South Africa cannot afford to further compromise our water security. We need to see far more commitment and proactive action on this matter. As a start, we urgently need to revise the way we are planning mining in our water source areas and areas where AMD is a significant risk.
The Budget Speech highlights how much money is needed to upgrade our engineered water infrastructure to meet basic service demands; however no mention was made of our ecological infrastructure. These are the catchments, rivers and wetlands that supply us with the water. WWF recognises the need for man-made water infrastructure; however it believes that spending on engineered infrastructure in isolation of spending equitably on our natural assets is fruitless expenditure.
Water security is critical to our country's long-term development and wellbeing. We need a long-term view that will protect our natural assets. We need to start strategically planning as if water matters - because it does. Download the Financial Provisions for Rehabilitation and Closure in South African Mining: Discussion Document on Challenges and Recommended Improvements