Thungela starts rehabilitation of damaged river system


THUNGELA Resources has begun years-long work aimed at repopulating a river system with fish that was severly damaged as a result of a spill from a disused coal mine. It will use part of some R1bn in funds set aside for rehabilitation.

Bloomberg News said 17 species of fish will be introduced to the Wilge and Olifants river systems that was damaged by a spill of acidic water in February 2022. This was after illegal miners broke a seal near the Khwezela Colliery in Mpumalanga province at an operation last mined in the 1960s, said the newswire.

“The impact environmentally goes far beyond the few tons of coal people will steal,” said July Ndlovu, Thungela CEO.

Fishes including tilapia, eels and tiny catfish Thungela will be introduced to the river as well as barbs, yellowfish and bulldogs – a small fish that generates an electric field to hunt and orient itself to the river, said Bloomberg News.

It quoted aquatic scientist Andre Hoffman, who has been working in conservation for 42 years, as saying the effort was “the cherry on the cake.

“It’s not nice for this to have happened but we can learn a lot from it.” The river system could take five to 10 years to recover even with the intervention, but would take 40 to 50 years without it, he added.

In addition to the breeding facility, as part of the remediation of the system Thungela has funded a water treatment plant as well as restoring wetlands. Over R500m has been spent securing old mines, said Bloomberg News.