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South Africa to produce potable water from mine drainage

May 02, 2014
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<photocredit>Gold mine. Photo credit: Alexandr Makarov/Hemera/Thinkstock</photocredit>

South Africa's government is mulling over plans to treat the water leaking from numerous gold mines to help meet drinking water demand. Such an endeavor could cost the country as much as $1 billion, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Although the government will cover part of the cost, most of the expense will actually be passed on to consumers, said Marius Keet, acting chief director of the department. He estimated that up to 150 million liters (40 million gallons) of potable water per day could be obtained from drainage, reducing the amount of water imported from Lesotho.

According to the news service, South Africa is the world's 30th driest country and demand for drinking water is predicted to outstrip supply by 2025. This bleak outlook has prompted the government to look for unconventional solutions, including treating the highly dangerous acid drainage from mines that gathers in cavernous areas that used to be mined. Such water typically contains toxic chemicals, including uranium, and leaks into rivers and other waterways. There are about 6,000 abandoned mines in the country and since at the time they operated environmental control was very lax, little has been done to prevent toxic water from flowing into rivers, Bloomberg Businessweek said.

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