College of Human Sciences

Research on acid mine drainage set to influence change

Now a PhD candidate, Suvania Naidoo (Lecturer: Development Studies, CHS) is investigating water management and public policy relating to the impact of mining on communities and the environment.

Acid mine drainage (AMD) in South Africa has become a threat to the environment, posing a direct risk to the Vaal River System, says Suvania Naidoo, lecturer in Development Studies in the College of Human Sciences (CHS).

Considering the importance of this river system in the ecological and socio-economic context of South Africa, the ripple effect of AMD could be vast - but Naidoo is helping to turn the tide. By collaborating with affected communities and the country’s water policy makers, and sharing her knowledge on public and research platforms, she is contributing to the development of workable solutions relating to AMD and its treatment.

A recipient of the 2018 Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Research, Naidoo has published a book, AMD in South Africa: Development actors, policy impacts and broader implications, which has been consulted and cited by both social and natural scientists. The book, published by Springer International in 2017, assessed the responses of various stakeholders in dealing with AMD and its socio-economic and developmental implications.

The book is based on research she conducted for her master’s thesis, in which she investigated AMD in the three basins of the Witwatersrand, and examined how various stakeholders defined the problem and what the implications of this are for policy.

Now a PhD candidate, Naidoo is investigating water management and public policy relating to the impact of mining on communities and the environment. Her focus is on the social constructions of the water quality of the Blesbokspruit wetland, on the East Rand, with specific focus on AMD and its treatment.

AMD is not a phenomenon unique to South Africa. As Naidoo explains, it also occurs in other countries that are rich in minerals, such as Germany, Canada and Australia. She presented a paper on the topic at an international social sciences conference in 2018 in Milan, Italy.

In March 2019, Naidoo presented a workshop at Water Show Africa 2019, billed as Africa’s leading conference and exhibition for water and large end users. She co-presented with officials from the national Department of Water and Sanitation and the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, who are responsible for AMD policy formulation and treatment, and spoke about the impact of AMD and its treatment on various stakeholders.

She currently serves as an advisory board member for Water Show Africa 2020 and also on the executive committee of the Klipriviersberg Sustainability Association (KlipSA), which deals with environmental conservation in the Johannesburg South area.

* By Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications Assistant, Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation

This article first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Research insights.

Publish date: 2020-06-25 00:00:00.0