Within the unique wetland area Mpumalanga Lake District in South Africa lies the site of a proposed, and controversial, opencast coal mine, the Lusthof colliery. It will require a preliminary ‘set-aside’ of about 70 million South African rands (9 million USD) to fund maintenance of water quality in the area’s rivers and lakes for a hundred years after closure, EfD researcher shows. Such set-asides to meet mine closure costs are required by South Africa’s mining legislation.
South Africa has very good mining legislation, but making it work has been a problem. Mining can do a lot of environmental damage, not just when it is happening, but once it has finished and the mine is closed. In 2011 EfD researcher Anthony Leiman was one of a small team who authored a discussion document entitled, Financial Provisions for Rehabilitation and Closure in Mining Projects. The project was initiated by WWF in response to a perceived weakness in the application of the country’s mining legislation.
The insights obtained from this source document were later usedto assess the set-aside fund needed to ensure there would be enough money to mitigate post closure pollution from the mine.
According to South Africa´s legislation a trust fund or something similar has to exist before mining can begin. There is still a moratorium on coal mining in the area. The potential economic benefits of the proposed mining are apparent, since coal in this area is of good quality and close to the surface. Sadly, much of it lies under sensitive wetlands.
"The two biggest problems are dust from old dumps, and water that seeps from old workings. The rock has been exposed to air, and minerals in it, such as sulphur and arsenic, oxidise and dissolve in the rising waters. When this acidic and toxic water decants out of the mine, it flow into nearby rivers and poisons them," says Leiman.