Johannesburg acid mine water crucial level redefined

Johannesburg acid mine water could soon reach a redefined “enviornmnetally critical level” 126m below surface, and eventually flood some sites.

The Department of Water Affairs had re-defined the environmentally critical level, said senior manager Marius Keet. Tourist attraction Gold Reef City could be among the first sites impacted, reported Business Day.

A multi-departmental team is racing to get pumps into action before the polluted water reaches the surface in a part of the central Witwatersrand.

The semi-state company that pumps water from the Lesotho highlands, Trans-Hex Caledon Tunnel Concession, is designated to be part of the eventual Johannesbrug acid mine water solution that may involve pumping, dilution, treatment, or perhaps re-use.

Keet said the “environmentally critical level” had been raised from 179m below surface to 126m below surface. “The only challenge with this [raised level] is that would allow [tourist shafts of ] Gold Reef City to flood.”

Johannesburg acid mine water basin

Keet said the department “cannot allow” acid mine water to reach the surface in the central basin. The basin reaches from Krugersdorp and Soweto in the west to Benoni in the east, and from just north of Katlehong to the southern part of Johannesburg.

The rate at which the polluted water was rising in mine shafts in the basin was slower than initially predicted. If the rate stayed the same, the tourist attraction would remain safe, Mr Keet said.

It was expected that the pumps would be in place before the acid mine water reached 126m, he said. “The water is 28m from the critical level, so we are fairly safe but we are on thin ice.”

Keet said Gold Reef City checked carbon monoxide and water levels in the old mine every day before allowing tourists down the shaft.

Vaal river at risk from Johannesburg acid mine water

Federation for a Sustainable Environment CEO Mariette Liefferink said polluted mine water that reached the surface in the central basin would flow into the Vaal river system.

Gold Reef City spokeswoman Priya Naidoo said mine tours, including museum visits, at the attraction would be halted temporarily, and the underground museum would be moved from 215m underground to a higher level, 80 below the surface.

“This is a precautionary measure. We have been monitoring the rising water in the mine shaft for some time, and safety is our primary concern. We have decided to relocate the museum to a higher level now in a planned move, as part of our overall renovation plans for the Gold Reef City Theme Park,” said Naidoo.

The theme park team liaised with government and mining industry representatives who are studying the rising mine water issue.

“The Gold Reef City mine is at higher levels than other mines in the area, which makes rising underground water less problematic for us. The re-sited museum is expected to be well above the peak level the water will reach,” Naidoo said.

* Source: Business Day

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