Another Dam Planned in The Olifants River Catchment

© Louise Brodie

The already pressurised Olifants River system is scheduled for more development, with another dam being intended to supply water for mining in the Olifants River catchment. Anglo Platinum is conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the planned Richmond dam, to be located in the Dwars river system, which feeds the Steelpoort River.

The Steelpoort River is the last major undammed tributary of the Olifants River, and the site of the proposed De Hoop dam. The planned Richmond dam is expected to take two years to construct at a cost of R80 million.

With a 30m high dam wall and a surface area of about 150ha, it will store 13.5 million cubic metres of water, about four percent of the volume of the De Hoop dam but with a footprint of about 10 percent of that of the De Hoop Dam. Water from the dam is expected to cost in the region of R15 per cubic metre per day.

The mining company wishes to build the dam to meet the needs of its projected mining operations in the area, as the Richmond dam would be able to supply water in 2008 as compared to the projected date of 2014 for water supply from the De Hoop dam.

The proposed Richmond dam is located to the east of the De Hoop dam site, and will reduce flows in the Dwars River which joins up with the Steelpoort River downstream of the De Hoop dam. During a determination of the reserve of the Dwars River for the project, it was found that "The Dwars River is still in good condition.... The importance of the entire Dwars River system will increase as the Steelpoort River is developed and impounded by the De Hoop dam...[it] will become an important habitat area for various biological species, especially fish."

According to the draft scoping report for the Richmond dam, the dam basin contains 29 plant species of conservation importance, of which 21 are endemic or have Red Data status, while a further eight are protected species. In the area which will be flooded, 11 of these 29 species with conservation importance are found.

The report also says that the dam basin is in an archaeologically sensitive area. However, the scoping report also adds that, "The implication of a "no-go" situation will be one of immense economic impact.

Not only will this impact on the production of much needed platinum reserves, it will also result in stagnation of the local economy; a loss of job opportunities and employment and an overall hampering of the development of a region already badly affected by unemployment."

The Kruger National Park and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, along with other objectors to the De Hoop Dam, have been registered with the environmental consultants as interested and affected parties providing input in the EIA process.

Public participation is intended to help focus the specialist studies for the EIA. The consultants' timeline shows that public comments can be tendered up until June 5, 2006 with the draft environmental impact report being ready by July 17.

By Melissa Wray

Kruger National Park - South African Safari