Impacts of a defunct colliery on water quality of the Wasbank river, UMzinyathi Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal

Nyath, Linah Thobekile
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The inefficiency of South Africa’s previous legislation that regulated the operation and closure of mining activities, has resulted in too many mines being abandoned without adequate rehabilitation (Naidoo, 2017). Therefore, currently, the State has taken a responsibility to identify all these abandoned mines, assess and rehabilitate them in order to mitigate their environmental impacts, mainly the acid mine drainage (AMD) impacts. A defunct colliery in Glencoe, which ceased its operation in 1973, is one of the mines that was identified as an abandoned mine. This mine is located on the upper Wasbank catchment area in KwaZulu-Natal and study was conducted in order to determine whether this defunct colliery has any negative effects on the water quality of this catchment area. A zone above the mine shaft of the defunct colliery was identified and considered as a pristine zone, which was then used as a reference zone, and three more zones were identified, adjacent and below the mine shaft, named sampling zone B, C and D in order to assess the trend of water quality indicators and therefore to determine whether the defunct colliery is contaminating this catchment area or not. Each zone had distinct sampling points within the zone, ranging from one to four sample points per zone. Water quality of this catchment area was tested on a monthly basis during the wet season (December 2017 to March 2018) and the dry season (April 2018 to July 2018). The parameters that were tested in the field were pH, electrical conductivity, and temperature. Furthermore, once a season, water samples were collected from each sampling point in order to determine the concentration of dissolved ions. All results were analyzed against the results of the reference zone and furthermore, against the South African Water Quality Guidelines for livestock farming and domestic use. The conclusion drawn from these results is that this catchment area is altered by mine drainage from the defunct colliery. However, it seems that mitigation measures designed by previous miners are effectively treating the AMD generated which has resulted in the neutralization of this acidity such that any decant from old mine works into the Wasbank River is slightly alkaline. Furthermore, based on SAWQG, the study concluded that this catchment is within the water quality standards for livestock farming and domestic use. However, there are minor restrictions to certain specific uses because of its salty state. Subsequent to the findings of this study, the defunct colliery can be considered as low priority of future rehabilitation efforts due to the state of water quality of the surrounding drainage
Nyathi, Linah Thobekile. (2019). Impacts of a defunct colliery on water quality of the Wasbank River, Umzinyathi Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal. University of the Witwatersrand,