Harmony Gold has been found guilty of illegally discharging wastewater into the Voëlpan Dam in the Free State since 2019.

Business Day report says an investigation by the Department of Water & Sanitation, initiated after a tip-off about the transgression in November 2022, found the unlawful discharge into the Voëlpan had resulted in flooding because of rising water levels and caused ‘damage to the Allanridge/Nyakallong communities and the R30 road’.

Harmony is said to have stopped the illegal practice only in June after the department circled in on it. The company has admitted to the transgression and has presented the department with a plan to rehabilitate the dam.

Harmony’s wholly owned subsidiary, Avgold, was instructed to appoint a suitably qualified environmental consultant to compile a rehabilitation plan for the polluted dam.

The rehabilitation plan is expected to include an assessment of the nature and extent of the illegal dumping of wastewater in the dam, the measures required to mitigate the damage and clear time frames for remediation.

A Harmony spokesperson said it has since established and invested in two water treatment plants at the mine.

‘All water is now being treated on site and there is no discharge going into Voëlpan. Harmony continues to engage with and assist the infrastructure team at the Matjhabeng municipality with various projects related to water in the region,’ the spokesperson said.

‘As far as the flooding of Voëlpan is concerned, it is important to note that during the past rainy season, the Free State received about 907mm of rainwater. The average rainfall for the Free State in this area is usually about 526mm. This equates to approximately 40% more rainfall than on average.’

Full Business Day report