AngloGold Ashanti faces charges for polluting South Africa’s Vaal River

Charges are being laid against AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE:AU) (JSE:ANG) (ASX:AGG) for a spill that resulted in uranium-laden water going into a tributary of the Vaal River.

Last week’s spillage from a pipe at the miner's operations in Stilfontein, near Kerksdorp, is said to have spread toxic waste over about 1.6 kilometres of the water resource. This is at least the second leak from AngloGold’s Mine Waste Solutions unit in the past five months, reports Bloomberg.

“We appointed a response team, which included internal and third-party specialists, to closely monitor and mitigate the impact,” the company was quoted as saying. “Operations were immediately halted, containment walls constructed, and all bolts in the critical sections of the pipelines replaced and welded.”

According to the Mail&Guardian an incident report was filed to the National Nuclear Regulator by the company last week indicating the spillage had occurred due to a "pipeline failure" between two of the its plants.

If AngloGold is found guilty, Mariette Liefferink, head of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said authorities could make the mine pay for the financial impacts of the polluted water.

The company is the world’s third-largest gold producer and it is dealing with a series of challenges, from trying to keep key mines open to "more than halve" its corporate costs in 2014, with the goal of saving a minimum of US$482 million.

Image of the Vaal River by Tjpytheas