First mine water atlas launched in South Africa

First mine water atlas launched in South Africa

The first mine water atlas launched last week by the Department of Water and Sanitation’s minister Nomvula Mokonyane and the Water Research Commission (WRC).

The launch took place in Durban as part of World Water Day which also coincided with the launch of the UN World Water Development Report 2017.

The South African Mine Water Atlas, provides a comprehensive reference on the vulnerability of water resources to mining activity in South Africa. The department said the atlas will highlight the critical interplay between mining and water resources and will be the most extensive set of documents of its kind.

The project, led by consulting firm Golder Associates, aimed to deliver the most comprehensive document of its kind in South Africa.

The atlas is said to introduce mine water and its geological, hydrological and legal context, while examining the geographical foundations of water quantity, quality and distribution, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing South Africa as it strives to improve the quantity, quality, protection and use of its water resources.

It will also be a reference point for decision-makers looking for background information.

The atlas uses various measures to illustrate South Africa’s hydrological characteristics by charting and mapping water resources on a provincial scale. Furthermore, each mining-affected province and the challenges and opportunities it faces are said to be addressed in the atlas.

The atlas has a multi-layered set of maps which span all mineral provinces in South Africa and highlights areas where mining frequently takes place. They also chart water resources in the various provinces and are overlaid with maps of mining and mineral-refining activities in order to understand the locations at which surface and groundwater and mining collide.

The WRC said that the atlas is intended to help mining companies, investors, government departments and students get a better understanding of the impact of mining on water resources.

However, it should be noted that whereas the atlas cannot police where to or not to mine, it will prove useful in decision making as far as the impact of mining will be in a particular region.

The atlas can also be used to see what potential liabilities may be and what the focus of mitigation measures may need to be in order to protect water resources in an area of operation.

The WRC also clarified the atlas’ primary benefit lies in the ability to assess cumulative impacts of mining in a catchment, through the understanding of the presence of upstream mines (both operational and derelict), as well as the sensitivity of the receiving water environment.

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