Nuclearisation of Africa - Conference in pictures

About the Federation for a Sustainable Environment

About the Federation for a Sustainable Environment Mitchell Krog

The FSE is today widely recognized as the most prominent of the environmental activist stakeholders in the mining industry - and its directors are listed as amongst the 100 most influential people in Africa’s Mining Industry (MiningMX 2012 & 2013 – “Rainmakers and Potstirrers”) 

The contributions of the FSE to environmental and social justice have been recognised and its directors received a number of environmental awards since the FSE’s inauguration in 2007 inter alia 

  • SAB Environmentalist of the Year – Winner (2013)
  • SAB Environmentalist of the Year  – Merit Winner.  Nick Steele Award (2012)
  • Exemplary Service Award: The Federation of Southern African Flyfishers (2012)
  • Winner of the Enviropaedia Eco-Warrior Award (2011)
  • Habitat Council Conservation Award (Individual category) (2010)
  • Environmental Award:  West Rand District Municipality (2009)
  • Chancellor’s Medal of the North West University on the 9th of October, 2009 for the “passionate and unselfish service to communities and for …work with regard to injustices concerning the environment.”

Mining is an important contributor to the SA economy hence it enjoys an elevated or preferential status based on perceived benefits.  

Professor Tracy Bumbey states, "South Africa’s exceptional mineralization has been an enormously influential factor in the development of the country’s political and economic institutions and the laws that underpin them. In South Africa, however, the psychological dependence on the mining industry seems to extend beyond cost/benefit, a phenomenon evidenced in the metaphors used to describe the industry’s significance. In the 1961 case of Coupen Holdings v Germiston City Council, for instance, Judge Hiemstra wrote: “This industry is the lifeblood of the country and particular solicitude for it is only natural”.   

"Adv. Johnny de Lange, the co-chair of the historic joint sitting of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Mineral Resources, and the Environment and Water respectively, spoke of mining as the “DNA” of the South African economy and its “whole development”, as an industry that played an “absolutely central role” during apartheid and in the democratic era ". 

While the FSE recognises the importance of mining in South Africa, it is also sober to the fact that mining has the potential for significant negative impacts on the environment.  As early as 1987, the US Environmental Protection Agency recognised that “.....problems related to mining waste may be rated as second only to global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion in terms of ecological risk. The release to the environment of mining waste can result in profound, generally irreversible destruction of ecosystems.” 

The FSE therefore concurs with the statement in the recently developed National Development Programme, namely that while it is “urgent to stimulate mining investment and production” it should be done “in a way that is environmentally sound.”  (Emphasis added.) 

The challenge to ensure that mining is “environmentally sound” has become even more important since in a recent overview of the National Water Resource Strategy-2 (NWRS-2), Mr. Niel van Wyk of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) stated:  “Large part of future potential [of mining is] in areas of water scarcity… in some areas water is already ‘flowing’ from agriculture to mining…the biggest impact of mines is on water quality …a threat to the resource that cannot be brushed away.” 

The Water Situation in South Africa 

According to the National Water Resource Strategy-2 (NWRS-2) 12 out of the 19 water management areas require intervention.  By 2025 all four international river basins will transition into Absolute Water Scarcity with resultant economic stagnation and potential social decay (without taking into account global climate change).  To exemplify: 

  • The Limpopo River Basin, already over-allocated by about 120%, is facing a 241% increase in demand by 2025.
  • The Vaal River System supply water to 60% of the economy and 45% of the population and to ensure that sufficient water of good quality is available to supply the future requirements of the Vaal River System the re-use of treated mine water by 2014/2015 is required.
  • If AMD is not treated to a level where the salt load is removed, the Upper Vaal will go into deficit and if there is a drought, long overdue, either:
  • Restrictions will be placed on consumers in the Upper Vaal; or
  • The dilution standard at Vaal Barrage will be relaxed resulting in very poor quality water reaching the consumers in the Middle and Lower Vaal (KOSH area, Free State Goldmines and all the mining activity in the Northern Cape on the Vaal Gamagara Scheme)

With the Upper Vaal in deficit there would then be no possibility of transferring water into the Olifants catchment (currently possible through the VRESS) and economic- including mining activities in 6 provinces could be affected if water consumption is curtailed. The mining industry is already being constrained by shortages of water on the Eastern and Western Limbs of the Bushveld. The question needs to be asked - is it prepared to risk seriously curtailed production in the event of a drought by letting the Upper Vaal go into deficit?

Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) |  Non-profit Organisation Registration Number:  062-986-NPO  | PBO File No 930 039 506 

 

 

MINING

Residents left in the dark over AMD treatment

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has been accused of “authorising pollution”, after its water quality tests for its acid mine drainage (AMD) plants in the Witwatersrand surpassed the government’s own water resource quality objectives.

From Gold Town to Ghost Town

Blyvooruitzicht, a once prosperous mine town, has become a haven for criminals. ...

Blyvoor Gold directors accused of R10m theft

Johannesburg - Three former directors of Blyvoor Gold who were meant to revive t...

SA NEWS

Lauded for research on SA acid mine drainage

The launch of Acid mine drainage in South Africa: Development actors, policy impacts and broader implications, by Suvania Naidoo, took place on 10 February 2017. The book has proven to be a timely publication because of the incipient water crisis in South Africa. The event was hosted by Unisa’s Department of Development Studies in the College of Human Sciences. The guests were welcomed by the chair of the department, Prof Gretchen du Plessis, who expressed that “development studies is an ever-changing discipline and is a space where different issues converge”. She further stated that the book fills a void in our knowledge about acid mine drainage (AMD) and that the publication is “an example of hard work which results in big achievements”.   This publication is the culmination of the findings of the research conducted for Naidoo’s master’s dissertation. The book focuses on assessing the responses of the various development actors involved in addressing the issues of AMD, and its socio-economic and developmental implications. Prof Dirk Kotzé, from the Department of Political Sciences at Unisa and programme director for the event, said that AMD research is generally analysed from highly technical, engineering, and natural science perspectives. He also said that the purpose of the publication was to identify and explain the different conceptual understandings of AMD and its implications. Kotzé acclaimed the publication as being one of the few cases where a social science approach successfully ventures into the domain of the natural sciences.   Naidoo uses sustainable development and, specifically, environmental sustainability as the departure for this research, which is directly linked to water and food security. She said the book concentrates on AMD as “a phenomenon in water management in South Africa and its potential impact on sustainable development, as well as mining and the quality of water in South Africa and the impacts of AMD”.   She emphasised that one of the most important contributions of her research is conceptual in nature and said “the manner in which AMD is defined determines how it is assessed as a water management, environmental, and social problem. It also means that the response to AMD is determined by how it is defined by government”. Naidoo highlighted that, while the South African government has made strong and valuable attempts to address the issues surrounding AMD, the conclusions of her research showed that there was no clear indication in policy as to what the socio-economic impacts caused by AMD are, and how they should be responded to.   Keynote speaker, Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, and a leading activist in this field, provided a detailed account of the historic and contemporary context of AMD. She alerted the audience to a significant fact that AMD dates as far back as 1903. She used a more current example to illustrate the impact of AMD on South Africa’s water systems by explaining how the problem of AMD in the West Rand Basin, Gauteng, was left untreated for almost 10 years. She said the immediate short-term treatment of AMD only commenced in 2012 and said that a feasibility study for the long-term treatment of this phenomenon was conducted in 2013 at a cost of R25m. Liefferink said that the long-term treatment plan for AMD was launched on 18 May 2016 but would only be implemented by 2020. She warned that this might have a significant impact on water security. She stressed that academics who employ their research for the benefit of society should be applauded and endorsed Naidoo’s publication as having a definite economic and social value impact.   Zachary Romano, editor at Springer, New York, via a pre-recorded video, said: “Suvania’s research was a perfect candidate for our SpringerBriefs edition, in Earth Sciences, Geography and Environment at Springer Nature. This series is targeted at publishing interdisciplinary case-studies that speaks to larger issues, particularly from young researchers with promising careers. As South Africa’s water systems are under much stress from climate change and pollution already, this is a timely document and we are confident that many academics and professionals will find it to be a great resource”. He also said that the book proposal was reviewed by several leaders in the field, all of whom were impressed by the final product. He further mentioned that the publisher is looking forward to future collaborative work with Naidoo.   The event was extremely well-attended by key stakeholders and experts in this field.

Truth of the dust that brings death

  A new hard-hitting report from Harvard Law School details how South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations concerning gold mining in and around Joburg. Bonnie Docherty, who led the research, spoke to Sheree Bega

Harvard Report: The Cost of Gold

A report has been published by the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic titled "The Cost of Gold: Environmental, Health, and Human Rights Consequences of Gold Mining in South Africa’s West and Central Rand.   The reports states, "The complex web of responsible government agencies and repeated legislative changes to that organizational structure have impeded the development of a coordinated plan to deal with the negative effects of mining. The limited scope of action, inadequate attention to at-risk communities, and insufficient consideration of environmental concerns have undermined the completeness of any response."

SA hasn't protected residents from gold mine pollution: Harvard report

JOHANNESBURG South Africa has failed to protect residents affected by pollution from contaminated water and mine dumps over more than 130 years of gold mining near Johannesburg, an independent investigation by the Harvard Law School said.

WATER

Rand Water tightens the taps in Gauteng

In the Midvaal suburb where Sipho Mosai lives, the gardens are lush and green because the sprinklers run all day. There's little sense of alarm at the fast-declining water levels in the Vaal water system after which the suburb is named.

Objection: Sedibelo Platinum Mine Water Use Licence

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment has objected to the Water Use Licen...

Corruption seeps into South Africa’s R26 billion water project: report

Water affairs and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane is in the cross-hairs of...