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National Cave and Karst Research Institute

Publication Date

November 2013


PJ (Peter) Mills Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site Management Authority (COH WHS MA) PO Box 155, Newtown 2113, South Africa Tel.: +27 (0) 11 085 2489 PJ (Phil) Hobbs Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) PO Box 395, Pretoria 0001, South Africa Tel.: +27 (0)12 841 2641 AbstractThe Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (COH WHS), South Africa, is located downstream of the actively decanting West Rand Goldfield (a.k.a. the Western Basin). It is therefore the only UNESCO- protected karst landscape in the world that is under threat from acid mine drainage (AMD). The perceived threat has generated wide and considerable concern for the preservation of the fossil sites. This perception has been fuelled by a poor understanding of the surface and groundwater resources of the WHS which, in turn, has precipitated often alarmist reporting in the media, some even hinting at the possible delisting of the site by UNESCO. These circumstances have presented significant challenges to management efforts directed at protecting the aquatic environment and outstanding universal value of the site. Not the least of these challenges has been gaining the support of direct stakeholders (e.g. landowners and local authorities) and interested and affected parties (e.g. non-governmental organisations, environmental lobbies, the media). Contrary to popular expectation, the mining industry has collaborated freely and copiously in its provision of mine water data and information, in stark contrast to an embargo placed on municipal wastewater quality data and information by a local authority. Against this background, the poster describes the challenge of informing the perception of typically non-scientific interested and affected parties regarding the impact and risk to the environment and its inhabitants, with a credible scientific understanding of the magnitude of this impact and the natural resilience that characterises the affected environment. Open Access - Permission by Publisher See Extended description for more information.