Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel warned MPs there were “private sector interests” driving debate on the environmental threat to Johannesburg posed by rising acid mine water.
“What we need is a rational discussion… informed by an empirical basis, because the idea that there will be acid mine drainage running through the streets of Johannesburg next week, and that we should all walk around in gum boots, is completely ridiculous.”
Manuel was responding in the National Assembly to a statement made earlier by Independent Democrats MP Lance Greyling, who told the House an environmental crisis was unfolding in Gauteng, and decisive action was needed from government to arrest it.
“The central basin upon which Johannesburg sits is filling up with acid mine drainage at the rate of one metre a day, and unless a decision is taken within the next few weeks, we will not have the time to put in place the engineering solution to deal with the impending catastrophe.”
Greyling called on the department of mineral resources to force mining companies to properly comply with all of their environmental responsibilities.
Last month, a senior government official told Parliament’s water affairs portfolio committee that millions of litres of acid mine water, currently 600 metres below Johannesburg, was rising at a rate of between 0.6 and 0.9 metres a day.
“(It) can have catastrophic consequences for the Johannesburg central business district if not stopped in time. A new pumping station and upgrades to the high-density sludge treatment works are urgently required to stop disaster,” water affairs deputy director water quality management, Marius Keet, told MPs at the time.
Manuel appealed for “rational” discussion on the issue.
“I just want to make an appeal that we try and be rational because it does appear that there are all manners of private sector interest driving particular agendas here…
“There are private sector interests that we need to guard against and we can take rational decisions… it’s a complex set of issues that we need a discussion about without pointing fingers this way and that because that’s unlikely to allow us to resolve (it) in a reasonable period of time,” he said.
Earlier, Democratic Alliance MP Gareth Morgan called for an urgent debate on the rising acid mine water, noting that it would flow into the Johannesburg central business district “in early 2012” if something was not done.