He said a reliable supply of water was a key to economic development as is being demonstrated by exciting platinum developments in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces.
"Projects such as the new platinum mines near Burgersfort and the new platinum smelter at Polokwane are already being implemented. Other plans include possible extension of Potgietersrus Platinum Mine (PPL) and a new mine in Mokopane. The Steelpoort valley and area around Lebowakgomo may be the next focus points for mining development," Kasrils told the media during a parliamentary briefing session.
He said the developments were resulting in a sharp increase in water demand and have already seen innovative projects developed to meet the need.
"Waste water from Polokwane and Mokopane is being recycled to be used in the platinum refineries and a major 56 km pipeline was recently built at a cost of over R300-million by a public-private partnership under the umbrella of the Lebalelo Water Users Association to supply water from the Olifants to the new platinum mines on the so-called "eastern limb" of the Bushveld complex."
Kasrils added that the Olifants River would need to be further developed to provide for the ongoing growth in water requirements, as it is the only remaining major source of surface water still available in the region.
"The Department has been working with Limpopo Provincial Government to ensure that these water needs can be met as they arise since most of the mining development will take place in that province."
He said that the Olifants River resources would be developed in a phased manner.
"During the first phase Flag Boshielo Dam, situated on the Olifants River near Marble Hall in Mpumalanga will be raised by 5 m at an estimated cost of R180 million.
"This will increase its storage capacity from 100 million cubic metres to 188 million cubic metres, allowing 72 million cubic metres of water to be used each year as compared to the present 56 million cubic metres.
"Construction will begin by the end of 2003 and must be completed by October 2005." He expained that during the second phase a large dam would be built on the Olifants River, either at Rooipoort, near Mafefe and Mathabatha some 150 km downstream of Flag Boshielo, or on the Steelpoort River, a tributary of the Olifants.
"The best option will be chosen when uncertainties about the future growth in water requirements and the locations of the new demand centres have been clarified with a decision expected by next year. Construction will start in 2006 and it will be completed by the end of 2010.
"The dam yield will be between 50 and 70 million cubic metres, depending on the final design and is estimated to cost between R700 million and R900 million," Kasrils said.
In the interim, the additional water secured by the Flag Boshielo raising will be made available to new mining ventures near Burgersfort.
"This will enable water entitlements, currently leased on a temporary basis by the mining ventures, to be returned to small farmers on the irrigation schemes downstream of the Flag Boshielo Dam, which are being rehabilitated."