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R60bn bill to clean old mines

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File picture.

Published Aug 20, 2015

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Cape Town - Closing South Africa’s owner-less and derelict mines and draining polluted water from the operations could cost almost R60 billion ($6.6 billion), government departments said.

The cost to close and make the mines safe was estimated at R45.1 billion, and a further R2 billion for old asbestos pits, according to a study by the Department of Mineral Resources and the Council for Geoscience.

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Cleaning up toxic water leaking from mines, known as acid-mine drainage, would cost about R10 billion, Marius Keets, chief director at the Department of Water Affairs, told lawmakers in Cape Town on Wednesday.

South Africa has about 6 000 owner-less and abandoned mines, many of them located close to urban areas, putting people’s health at risk and threatening to pollute agricultural land.

“We are facing a massive regulatory failure as neither department requires a levy from mining companies to treat water and there is no enforcement of the laws,” Tracey Davies, a lawyer with the Centre for Environmental Rights, said by phone.

Department of Mineral Resources guidelines estimate the minimum cost to rehabilitate mines at R50 000 per hectare (2.47 acres), with the limit for each mine at R25 million, according to Department of Mineral Resources CFO Irene Singo.

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