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The River Basin
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Water Quality
 Principles of Water Quality
 Human Impacts on Water Quality
 Agricultural Effluent & Eutrophication
Industry and Mining
 Microbiological Organisms and Pathogens
 Heavy Metals
 Persistent Organic Pollutants
 Water Temperature
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Industry and Mining  

After 27 years of civil war, Angola is beginning to exploit its significant natural resource potential, which includes oil, minerals, agricultural land and the potential for large-scale manufacturing industries. The growing economy will no doubt make demands on water resources quantity and quality. Whilst water quality in the Kunene River basin is thought to be good (although no conclusive data is currently available), recent developments in the industrial, mining and agricultural sector do raise the possibility of a degradation in the quality of rivers and aquifers in the catchment.


As a result of the improvement in the economic environment and some improvements in the quality of services provided by infrastructure, industry has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years in Angola (UN ESC 2008). There is currently no monitoring data on the influence, if any, of these activities on the water quality in the Kunene River basin. These paragraphs therefore attempt to describe the possible and most likely impacts these industrial activities may have on water quality in the basin.

Areas of industrial development are to be found mainly in the Upper, but also in the Middle Kunene River basin. The development of certain industrial centres is part of the national programme for re-industrialisation of Angola and foresees among others the establishment of new industries in Huambo, Caála, Matala and Lubango. One of the fast growing sub-sectors in the basin is the beverage industry which requires considerable volumes of water (ERM 2009). Other industrial sites are under development for the production of food, construction materials, radio and television, apparel, paint, plastics, wood processing, barbed wire, print graphics and metal work.

In the lower reaches of the Kunene no industries of any commercial significance exist.

All these industrial activities are potential sources for water pollution, particularly those that utilise or produce heavy metals. These substances can cause serious problems and can make water toxic to both aquatic biota and humans. At present, there is no system for charging polluters for effluent discharges in operation in Angola, such as the 'polluter pays principle'. Policies to encourage treatment and reuse of polluted water will be implemented when the situation warrants (SADC 2003).

The table below shows potential sources of heavy metals from industrial activities.

Sources of Metal Pollution from Industry

Metal Source
Cadmium Laundrettes, electroplating workshops, plastic manufacturing, pigments, enamels, paints
Chromium Alloys, preservatives, dying and tanning activities, metal coatings
Copper Electronics, plating, electrical wires, paper, textiles, rubber, printing, plastic
Iron Galvanizing, electroplating, polishing
Lead Fuel additive, batteries, pigments, roofing, fishing weights
Zinc Domestic wastes, galvanizing, batteries, paints, fungicides, textiles, cosmetics, pulp, papermills, and pharmaceutics
Nickel Alloys, electroplating, nickel-cadmium batteries, laundrettes, paints
Mercury Dental practices, clinical thermometers, glass mirrors
Source: Moletsi et al. 2004


The contamination of water resources from mining activities throughout the basin is a potential problem, which may increase significantly through recent developments in this sector. Since the last large scale mining activities were disrupted by the civil war, the government of Angola is encouraging numerous investments to restart the mining of mineral resource within the basin.

One of the main pollution concerns in the mining industry is the unavoidable contact of solid bi-products (e.g. tailings) with water from certain mining processes and/or surface water runoff generated by rainfall. The drainage water from mining areas may contain high concentrations of heavy metals like copper, lead, cadmium, chromium and zinc.

Potential sources for the pollution of ground and surface water due to mining activities are:

  • Toxic effluents from tailing ponds or other water related mining processes in surface water;
  • Non-professional storage of toxic by-products against percolation into groundwater;
  • Acid Mine Drainage, which is ore with high sulphur content (e.g. Pyrite);
  • Improper disposal of chemicals used in flotation or other concentration processes;
  • Surface runoff poses significant environmental problems through erosion and carryover of tailings and other mining residues;
  • Transport of mined materials; and
  • Machinery maintenance and repair.
Distribution of mining activities in the Kunene River basin.
Source: AHT GROUP AG 2010
( click to enlarge )

The Kunene River basin has numerous mineral deposits including iron, marble, red and black granite, quartz, kaolin, sodalite, even gold, diamonds and platinum were found in small deposits during recent explorations.

The main mining project being considered in the Kunene River basin is the re-commissioning of the Cassinga iron mine, which was in operation from 1957 to 1975. The mine remaining reserves are estimated at 34.2 Mt iron ore with a content of 44 % Fe and 1 000 Mt with 30 % Fe. At other deposits near Cassala-Kitungo, a proven reserve of 194 Mt (23 to 33 % Fe) iron has been identified, of which only 84 Mt are amenable to open pit mining (ANIP 2001). Re-commissioning of the Cassinga Mines would require an estimated 2 years of feasibility study and 5 years of construction (ERM 2009).

Next to diamonds, the development of Angola's stone quarrying industry is a priority for the Angolan Ministry of Mines. This sector has recently experienced rapid growth with exports of black granite nearly doubling over the last few years. A variety of stone deposits, including marble, crystalline quartz, red and black granite are located in the middle Kunene River basin of Huíla Province.

The lower Kunene River basin has not been well explored and its mineral potential is not yet fully known. Recent exploration in the area has failed to locate any major mineral resources but have revealed a number of deposits, (titanium, nickel, lead-zinc and copper) that might be viable for small-scale mining operations. At present there are several small scale mining operations underway in the Region. These include two garnet mines in the Otjindjangi area and a blue sodalite mine at Swartbooisdrift (ERM 2009).




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