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SA coal mines pollute water supply, group says

Mining companies, including Glencore and Anglo American, have been named for violating water licenses.
The Department of Water and Sanitation fails to effectively regulate water licenses, study finds. Picture: Sanjit Das, Bloomberg

South African coal mines operated by companies such as Glencore and Anglo American are polluting parts of Mpumalanga province as they fail to comply with their water licenses, according to an environmental group.

The water use licenses, which also include mines run by South32 and Exxaro Resources, were assessed in a report by the Centre for Environmental Rights. The study found “gross violations and water pollution by the operators,” it said.

South Africa, the most industrialised nation on the continent, uses coal for more than 90% of its electricity generation. While environmental groups have raised awareness of premature deaths caused by power plant pollution, the new study found “massive failures” by the Department of Water & Sanitation to effectively regulate water licenses.

“The pollution of South Africa’s precious water resources occurs on a particularly egregious scale in areas with high levels of mining activity,” according to the report. “The mining of coal is particularly harmful, with acid mine drainage from coal mines polluting surface and groundwater with acid, salts and metals.”

Glencore, Anglo American and South32 said they plan to respond to the report. Exxaro and the Department of Water didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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