groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)


Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 23 May 2016 – The Centre for Environmental Rights’ latest report Zero Hour: Poor Governance of Mining and the Violation of Environmental Rights in Mpumalanga [1], has found that the Department of Minerals Resources (DMR) has placed South Africa’s strategic water source areas at serious risk of endemic contamination. This while the country remains slave to the worst drought it has experienced in 30 years.

Last week, the International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) pledged $110 million to a new initiative to help drought-stricken Southern African countries, including South Africa.

Despite Mpumalanga containing areas of hydrological significance, which are critical for the country’s supply of potable water, the DMR has continued to grant mining and water use rights in these areas, particularly for coal developments. While the mining industry uses up and pollutes this water the people of South Africa are at risk of not having access to clean water.

According to Zero Hour, “Poor quality licences mean that mining companies who use water cannot be properly monitored nor can they be adequately held accountable when water resources become polluted”.

The legacy of acid mine drainage (AMD) has been described as a “ticking bomb”. AMD is the spill over of polluted water, which contains toxic elements and radioactive materials, from old and operational mining areas into the soil and waterways. According to a report released by groundWork [2] in 2014, acid mine drainage (AMD) from coal mines amounts to 62 Mega litres per day, with estimated costs of clean up for the eMalahleni/Witbank area minimally at R126 million [3]. 

In 2012, a Greenpeace report [4] stated that of the country’s water mining used 3% and Eskom used 2%, with Eskom a strategic water user under the National Water Act. This means that the Department of Water and Sanitation has to provide Eskom with water, even when people do not have access to it.

Kusile coal-fired power station will use approximately 71 million litres of water a day – this is one out of 13 power stations in the Mpumalanga Highveld region.

There is overwhelming evidence from CER’s latest report and previously conducted research that coal has never served the environment or the people that live in it.



[1]Zero Hour: Poor Governance of Mining and the Violation of Environmental Rights in Mpumalanga.
[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International.
[3] The Health Impact of Coal: The Responsibility that Coal-Fired Power Stations Bear for Ambient Air Quality Associated Health Impacts.
[4] Coal’s Hidden Water Cost to South Africa.



Megan Lewis
groundWork, Media and Communications Campaigner
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 (0) 83 450 5541

Bobby Peek
groundWork, Director
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 (0) 82 464 1383