Dec 7, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

SA’s 400 abandoned coal mines pose deadly, toxic risk

SA has failed to clean up and secure hundreds of abandoned coal mines, which Human Rights Watch says now pose a deadly threat to surrounding communities.

There are more than 400 empty coal mines across the country, which exports the fossil fuel and uses it to generate about 80% of its electricity. The sites threaten to pollute rivers and land by leaching acidic water, while posing a security risk because access is not secured, the group wrote in a report released Tuesday.

“The South African Government has done almost nothing to address the toxic legacy,” said Human Rights Watch. In lieu of remediation by mining companies, inappropriate estimates of future remediation costs by the Department of Natural Resources and Energy and Energy and weak enforcement have left residents facing the consequences, it said.

The broader industry in SA has left the country a total of more than 6,000 closed mines in its wake. Earlier this year, Thungela Resources Ltd – a coal spin-off from Anglo American Plc – reported a toxic spill at a mine that operated over 50 years ago that was blamed on vandalism. The company was ordered to repair the environmental damage.

Prior to legislation in 2002, there was no legal obligation to clean up mines in South Africa, but even since then the rules have rarely been followed, according to Human Rights Watch. The cost of rehabilitating coal mines in South Africa can be many hundreds of times the amount committed by producers, it said that the costs of clean-up will be borne by the mining company,” said the group, which conducted interviews with dozens of community members, health workers and government officials.

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