Water paucity hampering South African mining industry

mine freeMining production had slipped 14.5 per cent in 2012 as compared to 2011 due to water scarcity. (Image source: free/Flickr)Experts have said that water constraints in South Africa were hampering mining activities in the country

According to a report by Business Day, South African mining production had slipped 14.5 per cent this year compared to last year's figures, due to water paucity.

Warren Beech, head of mining at law firm Eversheds, said that the increasing shortage of a water supply was forcing mining companies to reconsider expansion projects or to develop water efficiency technologies.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa senior water programme manager, Christine Colvin, said it was “a good sign” that mining companies were thinking twice before going ahead with projects, because they often created water pollution and left the state to clean up.

SRK consulting principal hydrologist Peter Shepherd said mining was becoming more water-efficient in the face of water constraints.

Shepherd remarked, “About 10 to 15 years ago, for every tonne of ore produced, 1.5 cubic metre of water was used. Now mines use less than one cubic metre.” 

Webber Wentzel head of mining Peter Leon, however, felt that more than the water supply being an issue, the inability of the country's government to sort out mining and water use licences were creating more damage.

The Department of Mineral Resources admitted it was taking 284 days to grant a prospecting right and that in 2011-12 it had failed to meet its own targets in terms of issuing prospecting and mining licences in 82 per cent of cases, said Leon.

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