The mining landscape of the GCR serves as a constant reminder of its mining past. The GCR’s rapid urban growth and lax mining legislation have resulted in a mine residue area legacy that has become closely entwined with human settlements and the environment. At present, there are 374 identified mine residue areas in Gauteng, most of which are associated with gold mining. *
Mine residue areas also contribute to other mining-related legacies, such as acid mine drainage (AMD). AMD still presents a threat to society and the environment more than ten years after decanting started from the Western Basin in 2002. The current approach taken to combatting AMD has allowed for this environmental concern to become a prominent issue for government and the general public.
The effects of AMD are widespread and its impacts on society and the environment differ across the city-region, this is a result of various social and environmental factors that underpin the GCR.
MRAs are areas of localised mine waste, which include tailings disposal facilities and spillage sites, waste rock dumps, open cast excavations and quarries, water storage facilities and a mix of waste that falls within the boundaries of former mine properties.*
Many of the city-region’s MRAs are found on the properties of the ownerless and derelict mines, scattered across the GCR landscape. These mines have become ownerless and derelict through the lack of rehabilitation and restoration policies, and poor enforcement by the state over the history of mining in the GCR. It was only in 1991, when the Minerals Act (Act 50 of 1991) was put in place, that mining companies began using more responsible mining methods.* Before this, mines are said to have avoided their responsibilities towards the environment and rehabilitation.* The ownerless status of mines makes it difficult to trace mine owners and even if the owners are traced, they cannot be held liable for mine waste in retrospect under the South African Constitution. The liabilities of the ownerless and derelict mines have therefore been accrued by the state, and there are still an estimated 6 152 ownerless and derelict mines in South Africa.* The Auditor General of South Africa estimates the cost of rehabilitating these mines at R30 billion.*