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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950
Print version ISSN 0378-4738


AMBANI, Annie-Estelle  and  ANNEGARN, Harold. A reduction in mining and industrial effluents in the Blesbokspruit Ramsar wetland, South Africa: Has the quality of the surface water in the wetland improved?. Water SA [online]. 2015, vol.41, n.5, pp.648-659. ISSN 1816-7950.

The Blesbokspruit Wetland, 40 km southeast of Johannesburg, South Africa, was listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 1986. Following discharges of mine-waters in the mid-1990s, the wetland no longer complied with the Ramsar criteria. This paper reports on historical trends in surface water quality of the Blesbokspruit, as a step towards restoration to Ramsar status. Monthly water quality data (SO4, Na, Cl and Mg concentrations, pH and EC values), from January 2000 to December 2011, were obtained from Rand Water for sites at: the stream inflow, just after the discharge point of pumped underground mine-water from Grootvlei mine, and the stream outflow point. The major ions were grouped into two distinct time-variation patterns (SO4-Mg) and (Na-Cl). Despite extensive reports that the wetland had an acid mine drainage problem, the pH values over an 11-year period were constrained within a range of 6.7 to 8.8. In 2011, following the cessation of underground mine-water pumping operations, mineralisation of the Blesbokspruit showed a large stepwise reduction, in contrast to a slowly decreasing trend over the previous 10 years, in both the SO4-Mg and Na-Cl groups, and EC. The stepwise reduction suggests that the pulping plant within the paper mill, a major source of Na-Cl rich effluent, had ceased operations coincidentally with the cessation of underground water discharges. This contradicts previous findings that underground mine-water discharge was the principal contributor to contamination of the Blesbokspruit Wetland. So, while the Blesbokspruit may have had a high mineralisation problem, this was not simply an acid mine drainage problem, but a combination of the effects of mining and industry.

Keywords : acid mine drainage; underground mine-water; Blesbokspruit; Montreux Record; Grootvlei Mine; water quality; circumneutral; Ramsar.

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