Rio Tinto's massive R6.5bn investment in a new mining project south of Richards Bay has cheered the business community, but it has also refocused concern about a looming shortage of water in one of the country's biggest industrial hubs. A recent strategic assessment of future Richards Bay water supplies by the Aurecon consultancy group found that significant interventions — such as new dams or pipeline transfer schemes from distant rivers — could be needed as early as next year if the city is unable to reduce existing water consumption. The 2015 Aurecon scenarios report also raised the possibility that three major industrial hubs (Durban, Gauteng and Richards Bay) could soon be fighting each other over who gets to use water from the strategically important Thukela River. "The strategic importance of the future allocation of water from the Thukela River must be considered in a broader, national strategic perspective," it suggests, noting that three major dam projects in the upper rea...

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