Millions of liters of acidic water are rising underneath the city of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand area. It will soon spill on the streets if left unchecked.
The acid water underground has been created by hundreds of unregulated mining operations in the Johannesburg area- also known as Egoli, "the city of gold."
The situation is a ticking time bomb.
[Mariette Liefferink, CEO, Federation for a Sustainable Environment]: (English)
"It has been classified by the European Environmental Bureau and also by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as the second greatest risk next to global warming, if this is indeed the case, the Witwatersrand is at serious risk…”
The uncontrolled acid water that is flowing in the streams and rivers will have a long-term effect, especially on agriculture.
[Professor Anthony Turton, Water Scientist]: (English)
"…We are now coming into a situation where those toxic waters are flowing through our best agricultural land…”
Acid water is formed underground when old shafts and tunnels fill up, once mining stops.
The rain water is then exposed to sulphide mineral iron pyrite- it then fills the mine and starts spilling into the environment.
This process is called acid mine drainage.
Mining companies are required to treat the water underground before discharging it.
But some mines have stopped treating the water or are only partially treating the water because of financial constraints.
Long-term exposure to the toxic metals can cause cancer and can also affect the fetus by causing retardation in newborn babies.