Go Dutch on ADM bill
T IS RIDICULOUS to suggest the ratepayers of Joburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Mogale alone should pay up for such damage as has been caused by an industry that has played as pivotal a part in all of South Africa’s economic development as mining. If that is indeed what the Department of Water and Sanitation is suggesting, then it should think again.
All citizens have benefited directly or indirectly from the many billions mining has contributed to the treasury and no less by way of jobs and income from attendant industries and infrastructure. Its worst damage in the form of acid mine drainage (AMD) may well be to the Vaal River system, but that does not justify singling out Gauteng’s metropolitan taxpayers as the milch cows for fixing the problem.
Adding the bill to our municipal water accounts will not only be unfair but is bound to cause discord. Surely the e-toll fiasco should be lesson enough not to do so. Warning the three municipalities that they will run the risk of reduced water supply unless they pay the bill indeed smacks of blackmail.
It is calculated that upgrading, providing and maintaining the treatment facilities will cost R11.2 billion. That is a big account by localgovernment standards. It certainly makes the R450 million the government and the R660m the mines themselves have so far spent on purification works look feeble by comparison.
Trying to pass the bill is not going to work. The proper way is for South Africans, the various layers of government and the mines and industry included, to go Dutch on this one.
There is a serious point to be taken from all this in the ongoing contest between development and conservation. It is often left to individuals and environmental organisations to fight against mining near water resources and in sensitive areas.
The extent to which the toxic water flowing from the old mines is killing river systems, and the massive amounts needed to fix it, bear out the true costs that need to be taken into consideration when weighing up development against environmental considerations.