Environmental Impacts Of Gold Mining

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The mining industry is of great importance to the world economy. It provides diverse mineral products for the industries and household consumers but this diversity results in large volume of wastes to be generated. Couple with this, is the disruptive processes involved in the exploitation of the minerals with considerable impacts on the three (air, water and soil) major components of the ecosystem. Large quantities of waste rocks and tailings are usually generated after the extraction of the valuable metals from the ores bearing rocks, this wastes constitute the major environmental hazards associated with the mining industry. Mining activities usually takes place in specific regions but has a large local impacts on the environment with potentially adverse effect on the communities located very close to such area (Lottermoser, 2003).
In South Africa, gold mining has played a tremendous role in the sustenance and development of the country’s economy, it is also a major polluter and degrader of the ecosystem. Gold mining in the Witwatersrand began in 1886 and since this period, over 50 thousand tonnes of gold has been mined. As at 2010, close to 300 tailings dams are found in the Witwatersrand area (Oelofse, 2010). Most of this dams are unlined and without vegetation covers thus providing a source of extensive dust as well as water and soil (surface and groundwater) pollution (AngloGold Ashanti, 2004). DWAF (2001) reported that as at 1997, South Africa produced an estimated

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