Water, mining, and waste: An historical and economic perspective on conflict management in South Africa


  • Rebecca A. Adler
  • Marius Claassen
  • Linda Godfrey
  • Anthony R. Turton




Lack of government intervention in South Africa's mining industry has worsened conflicts associated with limited water resources. With the advent of democracy, new legislation demands that all South African citizens have the right to a clean, safe environment, including access to potable water, and that the country develop in a sustainable manner. But conflict remains due to the historical partnership between the government and the mining industry, as well as due to cumulative impacts associated with mining, which has polluted natural ground water sources. In this article, an historical overview of the mining industry in South Africa is presented, along with a simple economic model to describe behavior of the mining industry over time. Legislative frameworks used to address mine waste and mine water management are evaluated and suggestions are made for how to use an understanding of resource driven conflict to improve the outlook of mining and access to water for all in South Africa.


Adler, R., N. Funke, K. Findlater, and A. Turton. 2007. “An Assessment of the Relationship Between the Government, the Mining Industry and the Role of Science in the Far West Rand of South Africa.” Contract Report for the Council for Geosciences. Submitted by the Water Resource Governance Systems Research Group, CSIR: Pretoria. Report No. CSIR/NRE/WR/ER/2007/0019/C.

Adler, R. and J. Rascher. 2007. “A Strategy for the Management of Acid Mine Drainage From Gold Mines in Gauteng.” Contract Report for Thutuka (Pty) Ltd. Submitted by the Water Resource Governance Systems Research Group, CSIR: Pretoria. Report No. CSIR/NRE/PW/ER/2007/0053/C.

Barber, J. 1999. South Africa in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

[BGS] British Geological Survey. 2006. “Legislation & policy: mine waste.” See http://www.bgs.ac.uk/mineralsuk/planning/legislation/minewaste.html [accessed 28 August 2006].

BRGM. 2001. “Management of mining, quarrying and ore-processing waste in the European Union.” Study made for DG Environment, European Commission. Co-ordination by P. Charbonnier, December 2001. BRGM/RP-50319-FR.

Claassen, M., W.F. Strydom, K. Murray, and S. Jooste. 2001. “Ecological Risk Assessment Guidelines.” WRC Report number TT 151/01. pp 21 + xii

Coetzee, H., P. Wade, G. Ntsume, and W. Jordaan. 2002. “Radioactivity study on sediments in a dam in the Wonderfontein Spruit catchment.” DWAF-Report 2002, Pretoria.

Coetzee, H., J. Venter, and G. Ntsume. 2005. “Contamination of Wetlands by Witwatersrand Gold Mines – Processes and the Economic Potential of Gold in Wetlands.” Council for Geosciences Report No. 2005-0106. Pretoria: Council for Geosciences.

Coetzee, H., F. Winde, and P.W. Wade. 2006. “An Assessment of Sources, Pathways, Mechanisms and Risks of Current and Potential Future Pollution of Water and Sediments in Gold-Mining Areas of the Wonderfonteinspruit Catchment.” WRC Report No. 1214/1/06. Pretoria: Water Research Commission.

Dale, M. 1997. “South Africa: Development of a New Mineral Policy.” Resource Policy, Vol. 23, No. 1/2, pp. 15-25.

[DEAT] Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. 1999. “National Waste Management Strategy.” Version D. Pretoria: Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

[DJCD] Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 1996. Constitution of the Republic of South Africa: Act No. 108 of 1996. http://www.info.gov.za/documents/constitution/index.htm

[DJCD] Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 2000. “Promotion of Access to Information Act, Act 2 of 2000.” http//www. info.gov.za

[DME] Department of Minerals and Energy. 2002. “Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act, No.28 of 2002.” Pretoria: Department of Minerals and Energy.

[DWAF] Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. 1998. “National Water Act No. 36 of 1998.” Pretoria: Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

[DWAF] Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. 2001. “Waste Generation in South Africa.” Water Quality Management Series. Pretoria.

Farwell, B. 1999. The Great Boer War. London: Wordsworth Editions.

Fourie, M. 2005. “A Rising Acid Tide.” The Mail and Guardian Online (12 April 2005). http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=214990&area=/earthyear/earth_features

Gleick, P. 1998. “Conflict and Cooperation Over Fresh Water,” pp. 105-137 in The World’s Water 1998-1999: The Bennial Report on Fresh Water Resources. Covelo, CA: Island Press.

Godfrey, L. 2007. “Ecosystem governance and the trialogue debate: An overview of the trialogue relationship and the engagement along interfaces,” in A.R. Turton, H.J. Hattingh, G.A. Maree, D.J. Roux, M. Claassen, and W.F. Strydom, eds. Governance as a Trialogue: Government-Society-Science in Transition. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Hattingh, J., J. Leaner, G. Maree, W. Strydom, A. Turton, E. van Wyk, M. Claassen, and M. Moolman. 2005. “Towards innovative ways to ensure successful implementation of government tools.” Report No. ENV-P-I 2004-083. Pretoria, CSIR.

[IIED] International Institute for Environment and Development. 2002. “Research on Mine Closure Policy, in Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development.” Report commissioned by the International Institute for Environment and Development.

[IWQS] Institute for Water Quality Studies. 1999. “Report on the radioactivity monitoring programme in the Mooi River (Wonderfonteinspruit) catchment.” Report, N/C200/00/RPQ/2399.

Jordaan, J.M. 1963. “Minutes of Discussions Between the Honorable P.M.K. Le Roux, Minister of Water Affairs and the Hounrable D.r N. Diedricks Minister of Economic Affairs of the One Hand and Representatives of The Gold Mining Industry of the Other.” 18 February, 1963.

Jordaan, J.M., J.F. Enslin, J.P. Kriel, A.R. Havemann, L.E. Kent, and W.H. Cable. 1960. “Finale Verslag van die Tussendepartmentele Komitee insake Dolomitiese Mynwater: Verre Wes-Rand, Gerig aan sy Edele die Minister van Waterwese deur die Direkteur van Waterwese.” (In Afrikaans. Translated as, Final Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Dolomitic Mine-water: Far West-Rand, Directed at His Excellency the Minister of Water Affairs by the Director of Water Affairs). Pretoria: Department of Water Affairs.

Kempster, P.L., H.R. van Vliet, U. Looser, I. Parker, M.J. Silberbauer, and P. Du Toit. 1996. “Overview of radioactivity in water sources: uranium, radium and thorium.” Final report, IWQS-No: N/0000/00/RPQ/0196, Pretoria.

McGreal, C. 2006. “South Africa's Police Chief, His Friend the Murder Suspect, and the Crime Syndicate: Commissioner, Who also Heads Interpol, is Under Suspicion of Corruption.” The Mail and Guardian Online. http://www.guardian.co.uk/southafrica/story/0,,1957870,00.html_continue. 27 May 2006 [accessed 28 February 2007].

Mebratu, D. 1998. “Sustainability and Sustainable Development: Historical and Conceptual Review.” Environ Impact Assess Rev, Vol. 18, pp. 493-520.

Nasson, B. 1999. The South African War 1899 – 1902. London: Arnold.

Porch, D. 2000. Wars of Empire. London: Cassell & Co.

Robb, L. and V. Robb. 1998. “Gold in the Witwatersrand basin,” in Wilson and Anhaeusser, eds. The Mineral Resources of South Africa. Handbook. Pretoria: Council for Geosciences (CGS).

[RSA] Republic of South Africa. 2000. “White paper on integrated pollution and waste management for South Africa. A policy on pollution prevention, waste minimisation, impact management and remediation.” Government Gazette Vol. 417, No. 20978, 17 March 2000. General Notice 227 of 2000.

Sassoon, M. 2000. “Socioeconomic Consequences of Mine Closure,” in A. Warhurst and L. Noronha, eds. Environmental Policy in Mining: Corporate Strategy and Planning for Closure. London: Lewis Publishers.

Taviv, et al. 1999. “A Philosophy and Metholdolgy for the Implementation of the Polluter Pays Principle.” WRC Report No. 793/1/99. Pretoria: Water Research Commission.

Templehoff, E. 2007a. “Mynmonopolie se gru-moeras.” Die Beeld (2 February 2007).

Tempelhoff, E. 2007b. “Besoedelde Meer Verkoop.” Die Beeld (30 January 2007).

Turton A.R., C. Schultz, H. Buckle, M. Kgomongoe, T. Malungani, and M. Drackner. 2006. “Gold, Scorched Earth and Water: The Hydropolitics of Johannesburg.” Water Resources Development, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 313-335.

Turton, A.R., H.J. Hattingh, G. Maree, D.J. Roux, M. Claassen, and W.F. Strydom, eds. 2007. Governance as a Trialogue: Government – Society – Science in Transition. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

[US EPA] United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2006. “Non-hazarduos waste.” http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/non-haz.htm [accessed 28 August 2006].

Viljoen, M. and W. Reimold. 1999. An Introduction to South Africa’s Geological and Mining Heritage. Randburg: The Geological Society of South Africa and Mintek.

Voss, W. 1968. Elements of South African Water Law. Johannesburg: Juta and Co.

Voss, W. 1978. Principals of South African Water Law. Johannesburg: Juta and Co.

Wade, P.W., S. Woodbourne, W.M. Morris, P. Vos, and N.V. Jarvis. 2002. “Tier 1 risk assessment of radionuclides in selected sediments of the Mooi River.” WRC-Project No K5/1095.

Wade, P.W. and F. Winde. 2005. “Risk assessment,” in Coetzee, H. (compiler). “An assessment of current and future water-pollution risk with application to the Mooirivierloop (Wonderfonteinspruit).” WRC Report No. K5/1214, pp. 138-189.




How to Cite

Adler, R. A., Claassen, M., Godfrey, L., & Turton, A. R. (2007). Water, mining, and waste: An historical and economic perspective on conflict management in South Africa. The Economics of Peace and Security Journal, 2(2). https://doi.org/10.15355/epsj.2.2.33