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March 2010
In a move to enhance its resource base and export entitlement, Optimum Coal, a black-owned and controlled mining group, has bought Sentula Mining’s 49.998% interest in Siyanda Coal for R670-million. Siyanda is the owner of Koornfontein Mines.

This follows the purchase by Optimum Coal in November 2009 of Siyanda’s 50.02% controlling share of Siyanda Coal. This transaction is still subject to approval by the Competition Commission.

Should the Competition Commission approve these transactions, Optimum Coal will own 91% of the shares in Koornfontein Mines.

Mike Teke, Optimum Coal’s chief executive said: ‘This acquisition delivers on our growth strategy to become a leading coal producer in Africa by expanding the scope of our current coal operations as well as our export entitlement. We know and understand both the resource and the operations at Koornfontein very well and these will be a good fit with Optimum Coal’s existing operations.

On 1 February 2010, Optimum Coal announced its intention to float on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) during the first half of 2010.


Teba Development’s participation in a pilot Community Work Programme (CWP), along with the Seriti Institute in Mzimvubu and Matatiele in the Eastern Cape from September 2007 has been so successful that the CWP became a government programme from April 2009.

Twenty-one sites were initiated by November 2009 and a further 28 sites will be developed by March 2010, offering work opportunities to 53 000 people. Teba Development sites are located in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga Limpopo and North West Province.

CWPs are being implemented as part of government’s Second Economy Strategy Project (originally an initiative of the Presidency), together with the Department of Public Works. This approach aims to create an employment safety net by providing regular – rather than full-time – employment to participants, with a predictable number of days of work provided every month.

Teba Development is now running 12 sites that have made 22 000 work opportunities available in these mining communities. Eleven more sites are being developed.

“The principle of this initiative is that people, who would otherwise be unemployed and have no opportunities to generate income, are now able to work for an average maximum of two days a week and receive R50 a day for this work,” explains Teba Development’s managing director David Cooper. Supervisors earn R75 a day.

A good example of the success we’ve had in the mining communities is that of Bronville in Welkom and the surrounding informal settlements. Here we’ve been able to create work opportunities for people as helpers and cooks in the local crèches, assisting with after school care, doing home-based care and maintenance where household members are sick or infirm, providing community clean-ups, repairing leaking water pipes, erecting fences, establishing food gardens, repairing community infrastructure, doing security patrols, helping out at sports events and so on. There has also been excellent co-operation from municipalities. The clothing, tools and equipment required for these tasks are provided at no cost to participants.

Elsewhere, we’ve also facilitated work on public sector projects such as food gardens, creating fire breaks, erosion control, alien plant removal and road maintenance.

“Not only have these work opportunities helped generate desperately needed income for the community members, but the initiative has also created an unprecedented sense of community spirit among these people – and even boosted learner’s school performance. In Bronville, from August to November 2009, the average Matric pupil’s performance increased by 50%. This indicates that a sense of personal pride is being engendered as community members work together to support each other.”

Funding for these projects has been provided by the Independent Development trust, which is contracted by the Department of Public Works. From April 2010, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs will become the government department responsible for the CWP. Cooper says the CWP aims to create one million work opportunities over the next five years.



Since the turn of the century underground voids (cavities) created by mining the Witwatersrand ore body – specifically the Western Basin void – have filled with water and started to discharge into the surrounding water courses at an annual average rate of 15 megalitres a day.


This water continues to be a severe threat to the environment because it is contaminated by acid mine drainage (AMD), a sulphuric acid solution generated when exposed ore comes into contact with water and air. This polluted water threatens not only to pollute water resources and the fast-growing domestic and commercial populations that depend upon them, but could also bring destruction to one of the world’s most historically important and environmentally-sensitive sites – the Sterkfontein Caves.


In view of the recent heavy rains and sensitive environmental critical level (ECL), and unless this overflow is effectively addressed, the potential exists for this contaminated water to enter, and irreversibly damage the caves, which form part of the 3.5 million year old Cradle of Humankind, as well as the nearby Krugersdorp Nature Reserve, with alarming consequences.


In this news Mining News feature series, we will highlight the work that has already been undertaken by the Western Utilities Corporation (WUC), established in South Africa and mandated, on behalf of the mining companies involved, to implement a short, medium and long term self-sustainable solution to address the unique challenges presented by the existence of AMD in underground voids and its effects on potable (drinkable) water sources in environmentally-sensitive areas.


Squaring up to the challenge

Many of the mining houses active in the West Rand over the last 100 years have ceased operations, while others no longer even exist, so the responsibility for finding an effective and sustainable solution to this environmental problem now rests with the few mining companies that continue to have active interests in the area.


These companies include Mintails (through its operating subsidiary, Mogale Gold Mine), Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd (through its operating subsidiary, Randfontein Estates Ltd) and Durban Roodepoort Deep (DRD), whose underground operations are dormant, though technically active, at West Wits Gold Mine.


Aside from a moral obligation to address the AMD problem, these three remaining companies are also required to do so by the National Water Act that stipulates that “the polluter pays”. The Act aims to encourage industrial companies to discharge waste without causing harm to others or imposing a cost that society must pay.


In this regard, the Department of Water Affairs issued a directive that no mining house will be permitted to close any more operations in the area until the affected water has been satisfactorily rehabilitated.


In response, the three gold mining operations proactively joined forces to form a company called the Western Basin Environmental Corporation (WBEC) – a section 21 (non-profit) company, (registered in 2006) to initiate a sustainable solution to AMD on behalf of the three mines. As an interim measure, a significant portion of the contaminants are currently being removed by neutralizing and clarifying the water at existing water treatment plants at Mogale and Harmony gold mines, but recent excessive rains have resulted in untreated overflow in the Western Basin.


To address the problem fully, WBEC/WUC have been actively driving and funding an environmental impact assessment process for water rehabilitation associated with AMD and have consulted extensively with the relevant government authorities in an attempt to obtain approval for implementation of this regional mine closure strategy.


WBEC was initially mandated by the mines to undertake the following critical tasks:

  • Rehabilitate contaminated water that is already pouring out of the ground voids of the Western Basin
  • Minimise further contamination of potable water sources
  • Preserve the Sterkfontein Caves by reducing the risk of exposure to AMD
  • Reduce off-take of potable water sources by industrial users by making alternative treated water available
  • Minimise the transmission of AMD to sensitive downstream areas (i.e. the Cradle of Humankind) by reducing the water level in the underground voids.


For WBEC to achieve these objectives, WUC was contracted in 2007 to provide the required resources, infrastructure and funding to test technology and produce a bankable feasibility study for a sustainable solution to AMD. As a separate business entity, WUC independently raised the necessary private capital to progress this project.


On the basis of the mines’ brief, in accordance with government regulatory requirements, WUC’s Final Scoping Report was reviewed and accepted by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on 14 December 2009, covering sites situated within the Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Mogale Local Municipality areas.


Two other section 21 companies have been set up to cover the other affected areas and have joined the WBEC initiative. They are the Central Basin Environmental Corporation and the Eastern Basin Environmental Corporation.


While the looming AMD crisis is important in the Western Basin, it is potentially even more critical in the Central Basin, which lies directly under Johannesburg city centre. The Central Basin consists of a number of individual mines, all interlinked underground, of which a number are ownerless and/or out of operation.


The Central Basin is currently flooding, and if allowed to overflow, as in the case of the Western Basin, the results will be catastrophic, not only from an environmental point of view, but also because the structural integrity of Johannesburg city centre could be affected. Based on various studies, it is predicted that without intervention the AMD will overflow into the area by October 2011 or earlier, depending on seasonal rainfalls.


Twofold environmental challenge

Jaco Schoeman, the CEO of WUC explains: “South Africa is a water-scarce country where potable water supplies are limited in certain areas and where there are significant quantities of contaminated water in others. WBEC/WUC has provided the mines with a commercially viable solution to address the twofold environmental challenge, first to overcome the contamination of potable water sources unintentionally caused by decades of gold mining activity and secondly, to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for greater volumes of potable and grey (industrial quality) water by industry and the surrounding communities.”





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