Acid mine drainage could have huge impact on the environment if it left unattended according to Professor Aaron Wolf, a world renowned water expert and professor of geography and chair of the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University in the United States.
Wolf was in South Africa to attend a two day South African Water and Energy Forum in Sandton this week and warned that a great deal of mining in South Africa took place without proper monitoring.
"You find this kind of a problem precisely from the 50's and 60's of the mines that have closed down and abandoned and nobody is responsible," he said.
An expert at the interaction between water sciences and water policy, Wolf has acted as a consultant to the US Department of State, the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and several governments on various aspects of water resources and dispute resolution.
Speaking to Business Day he said acid mine drainage can also affect the drinking water availability and required action including rehabilitation.
"There are two sides of the solution, one is technical, I think South Africa has played a technical expertise being able to treat the water and reclaim basins. The other is more difficult, that is the political will to make the expenses that are necessary to approach the problem as these big," he said.
Last year Business Day visited the Western Basin in which has been flooded since 2002 and it is located below the Krugersdorp-Randfontein area.
Mines in the area, some closed down, have left tailings dams which have damaged ground water causing acid levels to rise.
At the same time, the eastern mining basin is also flooding underground after last pump was switched off recently at Grootvlei mine.
According to Grootvlei mine liquidator, Enver Motala, the flooding could be contained for up to six months before it would breach the basin.