There’s no denying the fact that mining is a critical contributor to our country’s economy. Mining is also responsible for the creation of around 1 million jobs and accounts for approximately 18% of GDP and 20% of investment. However, studies have shown that the act of mining can have a number of negative consequences for our valuable and rapidly depleting water resources. We take a look at some of these consequences below.
Water and Soil Contamination
South Africa is a densely populated developing country, with an ever-increasing population of approximately 57, 799, 775. This means that many people reside in close proximity to mining sites. The reality is that mining and acid mine drainage can contaminate nearby soil and water with heavy metals and sulfuric acid. Seeing as though over 70% of water used in both rural and urban areas in SA is surface water most commonly extracted from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, this contamination can lead to sickness and disease for those who drink it.
And it’s not just our water resources that mining is impacting. The practice can also impact the quality of our air. This is because some mining methods result in the release of harmful particulate matter such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead. If this matter is inhaled or absorbed through the skin, it can lead to various health problems, including respiratory diseases like emphysema.
How Can We Make Mining More Sustainable?
The secret lies in reducing the amount of water that mining practices contaminate. This can be done through the creation of responsible waste management plans. These plans provide detailed step-by-step procedures for the safe storage and disposal of mining waste, which often requires the use of eco-friendly equipment that have been created to allow for cleaner production techniques.
Mining also utilises a large amount of water. This water should be re-used in any way possible on mine sites. It can be re-used as grey water for keeping equipment clean or flushing toilets, for example.
For more information on waste management plans and advice in terms of ensuring that mining becomes more environmentally-friendly in South Africa, do not hesitate to get in touch with the team at Letsolo.
Image credit: iMINCO