Acid Mine Drainage

Oct 16, 2010

MISSION  37 of  2010

Name of Mission: Acid Mine Drainage
Date of Mission: 16th October 2010       
Aircraft used: Piper Cherokee 180
Pilot: Stanley Finn
Beneficiary: Samantha Reinders

Objective of the Flight

To verify locations of mine waste and operations, as well as acid mine water draining from them, and to acquire aerial photographs of the problems.

Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By  Samantha Reinders

This flight over the Krugersdorp/Randfontein mining areas, by reporter Mara Kardas-Nelson and photographer Samantha Reinders, was requested for an in-depth five- week expose on acid mine drainage in Gauteng and surrounds. The articles appeared in print and online in the Mail & Guardian and were made possible by the Open Society Foundation.

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Seeing aerial views of the many mine dumps surrounding the city of Johannesburg not only resulted in a great number of photos being taken, but also the opportunity for the reporter, Mara Kardas-Nelson, to verify locations of mine waste and operations, as well as acid mine water draining from them.

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While we had already explored this area for just over a month at the time of the flight, we could not confirm from our work on the ground whether or not acid mine drainage was in fact seeping from some of the major dumps in the Johannesburg area. We also could not confirm whether currently active mining operations were flowing into the Klip River, as we suspected. Being able to get a holistic, aerial view of the area not only allowed us to see where water was present, but also to better understand the proximity between dumps and local water bodies.

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Taking this flight prompted us to launch a brief investigation into the operations of Central Rand Gold, housed just outside Soweto, which we would not have done had we not seen their workings from the air. Finally, the flight helped to act as an important reminder of just how inundated Johannesburg is with mining operations.
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As a result of driving around the area every day for a month, we became far too used to the monstrosity of mining waste, seeing the dumps as many Johannesburgers do: an ever-present reality, rather than a daily threat. The timing of the flight was ideal, as it occurred just before writing of the articles began, and helped to remind both of us just how enormous the problem is, and therefore the potential importance of environmental journalism on the topic.

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From a photographic perspective the flight was incredibly important as it made it possible to show the public the immense closeness of the dumps to human habitation, and to show the location of clearly toxic water to bodies of water used for human consumption. It often takes visuals to drive a point home, and it was incredibly important to illustrate what the reporter was describing in text.  An aerial view is almost always more compelling than a ground view, because, by its nature, it is a different and exotic view.

Samantha Reinders and Mara Kardas-Nelson wish to thank The Bateleurs for their help with this project and truly believe that their operation is an invaluable one for environmentalists and journalists. We would especially like to thank Stanley Finn, our Bateleurs pilot on the day.

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