Date of Award
Master of Science
Geography and Environmental Resources
AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF ANDISIWE STUURMAN, for the Master of Science degree in Geography and Environmental Resources, presented on APRIL 10, 2015, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: AN ASSESSMENT OF ABANDONED MINE RECLAMATION IN SOUTH AFRICA USING A SURVEY OF ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Silvia Secchi Abandoned mines are those in which mining activity has ceased and there is no entity or company that can be traced to take responsibility for their maintenance or reclamation. It has been reported that there are approximately 6,150 abandoned mines in South Africa and it is estimated that it will cost $US4.2 billion to rehabilitate these mines over a very long period of time. The South African Department of Mineral Resources has set a reclamation target of 12 abandoned mines per year. This low target is what led to the interest in understanding the dynamics of abandoned mine reclamation in South Africa. An online survey of environmental experts in South Africa was conducted from December 2014 to January 2015 to elicit their opinions on the public's perception of abandoned mine reclamation and to assess whether their views are aligned in terms the cost of reclamation, sources of funding, how to accelerate the process of reclamation and credible sources of information for environmental issues. A total of 54 responses were collected, with good representation of respondents from each province in South Africa although the majority came from Gauteng, Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. The results of the survey revealed that there are several challenges that are slowing down the process of reclamation in South Africa including limited sources of funding, water resources at risk, and disproportionate ratio of experts between the private and public sector. About 80% of the respondents in the survey said that the public would not be willing to contribute towards a reclamation fund. A majority of the respondents who consider themselves experts in reclamation were of the opinion that the government and the mining industry should be primarily responsible for reclamation. After careful review of the results and other government reports related to reclamation in South Africa, it appears that the establishment of an abandoned mine reclamation fund would be a good policy for South Africa, as would be conducting studies to explore possible funding options, ring-fencing tax money for special purposes such as reclamation of abandoned mines, and developing guidelines and standards for abandoned mine reclamation or land reclamation.
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