Original Research

The threat of mine effluent to the UNESCO status of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

J F Durand, J Meeuvis, M Fourie
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 6, No 1 | a125 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v6i1.125 | © 2010 J F Durand, J Meeuvis, M Fourie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 March 2016 | Published: 04 April 2010

About the author(s)

J F Durand, Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
J Meeuvis, Department of Geography and Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
M Fourie, Department of Geography and Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Abstract

There is a significant environmental risk posed to the region in which one of the most important and richest archaeological and palaeontological resources is located in South Africa. This area, known as the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage (COHWHS), is situated adjacent to one of the richest gold bearing geological sequence in the world. The mine pollution which is emanating from the mines in the form of acid mine drainage (AMD) is threatening this remarkable resource which has yielded the biggest collection of hominin fossils in the world. The environmental degradation of the COHWHS will have a major impact on the archaeological and palaeontological heritage of not only South Africa, but the world, as well as the tourism, hospitality and education sectors of South Africa. If monitoring, mitigation and management measures are not implemented effectively with immediate effect to avoid or minimise the negative effects, the COHWHS may stand the risk of losing its status and be demoted to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger. Ultimately, if the site loses the characteristics that determined its inscription in the World Heritage List, the World Heritage Committee may decide to delete the property from its list.

Keywords

Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site; Sterkfontein Caves, acid mine drainage; archaeological and palaeontological resources; dolomite; karst system; risks and impacts

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