Impact of Iron Duke Pyrite Mine on water chemistry and aquatic life – Mazowe Valley, Zimbabwe

  • S Ravengai
  • D Love
  • I Love
  • B Gratwicke
  • O Mandingaisa
  • RJS Owen


Iron Duke Mine is the only active pyrite mine in Zimbabwe, and has been in operation since the 1940s. Its location in the multiple-use upper catchment of the Mazowe Valley is strategic in terms of water resource management. The mine disposes of its highly acidic wastewater into two evaporation ponds on the north-eastern side of the mine. This has led to acidification of the groundwater to a pH of about 2 near the evaporation ponds as well as contamination with Fe, Ni, Cu, Co, Pb, Zn and SO4 2-. The pH gradually increases in a north-westerly direction, but much faster towards the west and south-west. Water samples taken from the Yellow Jacket River, which runs through the mine premises, indicated that the upper part of the river was not contaminated with Fe, Ni, Cu, Co, Pb, Zn or SO4 2- and had a neutral pH. However, where the river cuts through gossans and passes adjacent to the mine waste dump and the seepage zone from the evaporation ponds, the water quality deteriorates. The symptoms are a reduction in pH of river water from 7 to about 4 and the precipitation of complex iron hydroxy-sulphates known as “yellow boy” on the streambed. Fe, Ni, Cu, Co, Pb, and Zn concentrations are also elevated here. This poor water quality persisted downstream until the confluence with the Mazowe River where the acidic waters were diluted, and the pH returned to 7. The poor water quality in the Yellow Jacket River is related to an overall reduction in the diversity of aquatic macro-invertebrates and fish downstream of the mine until the confluence with the Mazowe River.

Water SA Vol. 31 (2) 2005: pp.219-228

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0378-4738