JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's water ministry plans to charge mining firms two-thirds of the cost for treating polluted water emanating from their century-long operations in Johannesburg's mining belt.
Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the new environmental levy will see companies foot 67 percent of the bill for setting up plants to process the waste blamed for threatening the region's already scarce water supply.
Acid mine drainage (AMD) results from the outflow of acidic water from mines, and often affected water supplies develop pH levels similar to those of battery acid, rendering the water harmful to humans as well animal and plant life.
Water is already scarce in South Africa, which is in the midst of its worst drought in over 100 years as an El-Nino weather pattern has caused rainfall levels to plummet.
"This long-term intervention will therefore turn the AMD problem into a long-term sustainable solution by producing fully treated water," Mokonyane said in a statement on Wednesday.
The minister said the cost to government would be 600 million rand ($38 million) a year, and that government would cover the anticipated recoveries from the mining sector prior to the implementation of the policy.
South Africa's Chamber of Mines was not immediately available to comment on the impact the new levy would have on the operations of its members.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia and David Evans)