While UASA welcomes the Department of Water Affairs' long last acknowledgement of the crisis at hand concerning the millions of litres of highly acidic mine water rising up under Johannesburg, it is dismayed that nothing has been done sooner.
UASA spokesperson André Venter says UASA is at the same time amazed and irritated that Parliament's water affairs portfolio committee “expressed shock” at hearing about the rising levels of acidic mine water, since the alarm had frequently been sounded in the media since 2002 when the acid mining drainage started decanting on the West Rand. The extent and details of the threat should be well-known by now.
Venter says the union had presented the dangerous situation months ago to Ms Connie September, advisor to the Minister of Water Affairs. Ms September suggested the meeting, which was also attended by Mr Marius Keet, Water Affairs Deputy Director: Water Quality Management and the acting Director General of Water Affairs, after seeing news coverage on UASA and acid mine drainage.
“At the meeting, we pointed out that the Department of Water Affairs and the mining industry needed to strike a deal regarding the threat of the water decanting and we subsequently offered to facilitate such a meeting. September did not want to commit to any decisive action and we have not heard from her, or the Department, since.
“UASA has since hosted two widely publicised water security seminars, with panels of experts highlighting the same problem.
“Our latest effort in attracting some attention to the issue was a letter, dated 8 July 2010, to Mr Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency and head of the National Planning Commission, again explaining the dangerous situation and demanding action. This came after President Jacob Zuma, apparently, indicated to Manuel that ‘water’ is the type of issue that the NPC should be investigating, since the country cannot afford another debacle such as Eskom. Save for an acknowledgement of receipt, no response has been received to date.
“The proposed new interim pumping station at a cost of R220 million is necessary, but not enough. Long term action is needed. According to some of the experts that served on the panels of our water security seminars, there is already a sustainable solution in existing infrastructure that can be expanded upon,” Venter says.
"UASA now demands immediate action to prevent a disaster," says Venter.