Browsing by Author "Ewart, Timothy Ian"
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- ItemAcid mine drainage in the Gauteng province of South Africa : a phenomenological study on the degree of alignment between stakeholders concerning a sustainable solution to acid mine drainage(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2011-12) Ewart, Timothy Ian; Brent, Alan C.; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. School of Public Leadership.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Ecosystems, and the very services and resources that they provide, are fundamental to our existence. Regardless, mankind shows scant regard for the biotic and abiotic components of the environment that serve as both sources and sinks for anthropocentric demands, practices and behaviours. Of these vital resources, perhaps the one that is most under threat is water which while crucial for growth and development around the globe, is rapidly becoming a scarce commodity. In South Africa - already a water-scarce country - this situation is further compounded by mining practices that are not only unsustainable, but also largely unregulated from an environmental perspective. Mining activities have resulted in the mass exposure of iron pyrite and heavy metals, both underground and on the surface. Upon exposure to weathering, the iron pyrite gives rise to sulphuric acid, which, in turn results in the mobilisation and concentration of toxic metals. Although this is a geological phenomenon, the increasing concentrations of toxic metals as a result of mining have exposed the Gauteng province to enormous environmental, social and economic risks. Concerning the risks, the research highlighted the following: - Although comprehensive research has been found relating to the physical attributes of acid mine drainage (AMD), very little is known of the health aspects associated with AMD. Of immediate concern is, the subsequent environmental and health implications stemming from the association between living organisms and heavy metals. - In the absence of such information, the credibility of current solutions is thus questionable. Of the solutions that have been proposed, most have been reductionist in approach and have only focused on dealing with the surface decant of contaminated water from predominately non-functioning mines. The health risks associated with radioactive and highly toxic waste have been down played or simply ignored (Albrecht, 2011). - The absence of a comprehensive solution also raises questions as to the assessment and decision-making process utilised to date by the Department of Water Affairs (DWA). - Both government and the private sector have allowed the AMD threat to amplify over the years. Their inaction has been facilitated by the poor enforcement of legislation and, clever manoeuvring by mining companies, in what can only be described as a mutually beneficial relationship between government and the mining industry. In stark contrast to the inaction of government and the private sector, environmental activists have been very vocal in calling for a solution to a number of the risks associated with AMD. This, together with the recent decant of AMD in the Western Basin, has culminated in a public outcry and prompted calls for a solution to the AMD threat. Government's response to this was a narrow and incomprehensive solution, which only served to further frustrate the different stakeholder groups. Where stakeholders have different themes as to the implications and thus solutions to the AMD threat on the Witwatersrand (as driven by the profiles of the different stakeholder groups), an appropriate solution will only be realised by adopting the following recommendations: - Government must show the necessary political will, to fully engage the threat of AMD and address their poor track record as regulator - their credibility has been skewed through their vested interests in the mining industry. - Having taken ownership of the AMD threat on the Witwatersrand, government must move to avert any immediate risks to human well-being. - Under governments' leadership, the capacity of all stakeholders must be addressed to facilitate a participatory trans-disciplinary review of the assessment mechanisms and facts, in order to reach a mutually acceptable solution(s) to the social and environmental impacts associated with mining activities - a solution that will ensure future environmental integrity, social development and economic growth.