MINING (149)

The year got off to a great start for Jozi Gold. The film has been selected for the prestigious CPH DOX International Film Festival in Copenhagen, it is a finalist in the SIMA Awards and it will feature in The Bioscope Independent Cinema’s Best Films of 2019 screenings this coming weekend.

It is a major achievement for Jozi Gold that the international premiere will be at CPH DOX, one of the biggest and most important documentary festivals in the world. It takes place in Copenhagen from March 18th to 29th and the producers/directors are aiming to launch the international Impact Campaign at the same time.

And hot on the heels of the CPH DOX announcement came an award. The annual Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA) celebrate the highest standard of social impact storytelling, honouring cutting edge filmmaking from around the world that inspires activism, compassion and social transformation. Each year, projects are selected from over 140 countries, competing for awards, cash prizes, media features, and entry into SIMA’s distribution programmes that bring selected works to communities and classrooms worldwide. The winners will be announced on February 7th, 2020.

A letter from the organisers states: “We are committed to advancing the culture of social-impact filmmaking and championing filmmakers and change-makers like YOU, who use creative storytelling to inspire awareness, compassion and action. Thank you for inspiring us with your work!

And, on the Homefront, The Bioscope Independent Cinema in Maboneng, Johannesburg has opted for a third run of  Jozi Gold as part of their Best Films of 2019 screenings.

The festive season was barely in sunset mode when we received a request from the University of Cape Town to screen Jozi Gold for a group of foreign students (mostly from the USA and focusing on environmental studies) who had just arrived to spend a semester in the Mother City. Professor Marc Los Huertos from Pomona College in Los Angeles requested the screening after reading about Jozi Gold online. Pomona is one of the USA’s premier liberal arts colleges.

If you would like to know more or become involved contact Sabelo Hlatshwayo, Jozi Gold Impact Coordinator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jozi Gold, raising awareness and spreading the inspiration one screening at a time. Watch it here: Jozi Gold Film.

The producers/directors' mailing address is:
Jozi Gold
WG Film AB Västergatan 22a SE-211 21
Malmö SE-211 21
Sweden

NEWS / 25 OCTOBER 2019, 10:04PM / SHEREE BEGA

A decision by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs setting aside the environmental approval for a planned open-cast coal mine on the East Rand has been hailed as "excellent" for the region.

In her decision on October 20, Minister Barbara Creecy stated that it was vital that commercial agriculture be safeguarded in the Springs/Nigel area.

Local resident, business and environmental groups had appealed the Department of Mineral Resources' (DMR) approval of the integrated environmental authorisation for the proposed Palmietkuilen coal mine in March this year.

Creecy has now upheld their appeal, setting aside the DMR's decision.

The Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Conservation Trust, the Largo and Groovaly AH Residents and Businesses, Aston Lake Community and the Springs Nigel branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA, were among the organisations who had brought seven appeals against the project.

In August 2016, Anglo Operations, on behalf of Canyon Coal, applied to build the open-pit coal mine. The project is anticipated to have a life of mine of 47 years, with the anticipated production of 2 400 000 tons of coal per year to supply local and international markets.

The proposed mine is upstream of the Blesbokspruit, which feeds the Marievale Bird Sanctuary in Springs and flows into the Vaal. It is a designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance.

In her appeal decision, Creecy notes how Hugo Arthur de Koningh, the second appellant in the matter, argued that agricultural land "has to disappear for the sake of economic development" and expressed concern that "food security became more threatened".

Creecy agreed."While I am aware of the social benefits of the proposed mining, I find that such does not outweigh the need to to protect and preserve the prime agricultural land.

"The said area has been utilised for agricultural activities for generations and can go on to be used for such provided soil disturbances are avoided."

"One of the biggest threats to the retention of productive agricultural land is the conflict between agriculture and mining land uses. With the matter at hand, I find that it is vital to preserve the current land use, mainly commercial agriculture," Creecy said.

"This is excellent news for Springs and the farmers of our area and our thanks to all who participated in the seven appeals that were lodged," said the attorney in the case, Philip De Jager.

"I would, however, point out that the applicant is entitled to have this decision judicially reviewed." 

Local environmentalist Stan Madden, the "father of the Blesbokspruit", welcomed Creecy's decision. "I was one of the group of organisations (Springs-Nigel branch of Wessa) that were against the environmental authorisation in the Palmietkuilen area.

"I and others are very pleased with the Minister's decision not to grant this authorisation. It does give a little hope for the future of this sensitive wetland and agricultural heartland, Madden said.

Mariette Liefferink, the CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said it was "heartened" by Creecy's decision to uphold the appeal by interested and affected parties and to set aside the decision by the DMR.

"It demonstrates the power of active citizenry to ensure that development is ecological sustainable and economically justifiable.

"With South Africa being a water scarce country, with a rapid population growth that consumes a substantial amount of food and water, and vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate change and climate variability, the proposed open cast coal mine would have compromised sustainability and would have exceeded environmental tipping points," she said.

In their appeals, residents cited how an objection by the then Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries against the loss of high agricultural land was ignored by the DMR.

On September 25, comments were provided to Creecy by the now Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, indicating that the proposed mining activity is located within a proposed protected agricultural area, which has a priority rating of B.

"According to DALRRD, this means that this area is regarded as high potential agricultural land, which should be protected for agricultural production purposes," Creecy noted.

The directorate of spatial information management within Creecy's department was requested to do a screening of the proposed mining area, "which confirms that the site comprises mainly very sensitive agricultural areas", she said.

The DMR had stated that the impact on agricultural land was considered and assessed and studies had shown how the proposed mining activity "will have minimal and acceptable impacts on food security".

The Saturday Star

According the Draft Water and Sanitation Master Plan, high water yield areas constitute only 4% of South Africa’s surface area and are the water factories of the country. Currently only 18% of them have any form of formal protection.  Furthermore, 57% of river ecosystem types and 65% of wetland eco system types are threatened, making wetlands the most threatened of all ecosystems. 

 

In view of the above mentioned threats, the FSE, a member of the Coalition, who defended the protection of the Enkangala-Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area, where Atha Proposes to mine coal,  salutes the latest decision by the Constitutional Court. 

 

Press statement attached.

 

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Appeal Decision Palmietkuilen

Tuesday, 22 October 2019 10:47

Successful Appeal against the Decision to Grant an Integrated Environmental Authorisation to Anglo Operations (Pty) Ltd  in respect of a Mining Right Application relating to opencast coal mining on Farm Palmietkuilen. The FSE assisted and supported the 1st and 3rd Appellants, namely  Largo and Grootvaly A H Residents and Businesses and the Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Conservation Trust with their Appeals.

 

Appeal decision attached.

SATURDAY STAR article written by Sheree Bega - "Mintails mining site reduced to rubble"

“Look, there’s nothing left,” said the heavily armed security guard as he pointed to what remained of Mintails’ gold treatment plants, offices and adjacent infrastructure: rubble.

Read the rest of the article here


Watch the SABC2 Mintails coverage here.


Notice of motion and affidavit issued by the FSE attached for referral.

SATURDAY STAR NEWS / 31 AUGUST 2019, 4:55PM / SHEREE BEGA

Mariette Liefferink, chief executive of the Federation for a Sustaiable Environment, has described Mintails Group’s Krugersdorp and Randfontein mining activities as one of South Africa’s ‘worst environmental catastrophes’. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - As a heavy wind blows over the West Rand, clouds of dust swirl from clusters of barren mine dumps towering over both sides of Main Reef Road, turning the skyline a ghostly white.

It’s a bleak scene that environmental justice activist Mariette Liefferink knows all too well. 

“This is all Mintails’ and just look at how it’s been left,” says the chief executive of the non-profit Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE), gesturing to the unrehabilitated dumps.

She drives under a bridge, teetering over the busy road. The structure is collapsing from ongoing spillages during Mintails' operations, she says.

But after a decade of government inaction against the Mintails Group, the FSE has now turned to the courts to deal with what Liefferink describes as one of South Africa’s “worst environmental catastrophes”, left behind by the liquidated gold mining and tailings processing company that was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The FSE, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, has filed a landmark lawsuit against the Mintails Group, its liquidators, the ministers of Mineral Resources, Water and Sanitation, Trade and Industry, and Environmental Affairs as well as Mogale City local municipality in the North Gauteng High Court. In total, 34 respondents are cited in the litigation which seeks criminal charges against the firm's directors.

In her founding affidavit, Liefferink warns how the mining activities of the “chronically poorly managed” firm spanning Krugersdorp and Randfontein will have “catastrophic consequences” for taxpayers, future generations, the natural environment and human health".

Mintails applied for business rescue in October 2015, but was liquidated in September last year.

It has an unfunded environmental liability of R485million, but only around R25m financial provision in its environmental rehabilitation funds.

This will now be “externalised to the state, neighbouring mines, a mute environment, financially beleaguered local municipalities and communities characterised by widespread poverty and future generations”, reads her founding affidavit.

“The overall tab will be picked up by overburdened taxpayers who have little say in the ongoing corporate malevolence of the group.”

Liefferink details the firm’s “wholesale neglect” of its environmental responsibilities. This includes the “widespread abandoning of overseeing adequate and sufficient monitoring, mitigation, preservation, oversight, planning, and concurrent rehabilitation as part of their overall mining activities”.

It reclaimed only the profitable sections of the dumps, failing to rehabilitate any footprints.

“The Mintails Group have failed to complete the mining, removed the underground pillars (containing residual gold), failed to backfill and rehabilitate open pits and failed to secure the sites.

“Several polluted highly contaminated dams and open pits are easily accessible to school children, churchgoers and community members. These dams are toxic and potentially radioactive.

“I've witnessed churchgoers being baptised in these toxic swell pools and children swimming in them on hot summer days. Certain people have died - the mining area is open and an exceptionally dangerous area to be in.”

There is no signage, walling, fencing or lighting on the mined-out land and there has been "sporadic” dust control.

Polluted water from unrehabilated footprints and dumps has not been captured in lined pollution control dams. “The (firm’s) footprint has had a profound impact on surrounding wetlands as well as the catchment area. There have been ongoing spillages of acid mine drainage water and slurry, which has allowed acid mine water to seep from cracks in the pollution control dams into rivers and surrounding wetlands.

"There has been inadequate maintenance of the pipes and pollution control dams by the Mintails Group,” the affidavit reads.

Wetlands have become “potentially radioactive toxic dump lands” and the applicable mining area is now “ecologically dead”.

In 2009, the former Department of Water Affairs and the National Nuclear Regulator flagged Mintails for allowing acutely toxic water and slimes to migrate to the wetlands downstream of Lancaster Dam, part of the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment, the richest gold mining area in the world.

“The Wonderfonteinspruit is used for irrigation, watering of cattle, baptisms, recreational use, domestic use and at times for drinking purposes. It flows downstream into the Boskop Dam, supplying water to 400 000 people in Potchefstroom," the affidavit reads. "That Lancaster Dam has been allowed to deteriorate in the manner it has by the Mintails operation presents a direct risk to life and limb.”

But the relevant state departments failed to enforce legally binding conditions for the firm’s mining and environmental reports.

The Department of Mineral Resources should never have afforded the firm the right to operate without the necessary financial provisions.

“The Mintails Group has over the years argued it will ‘top up’ the financial provisions during the life of mine. It was on this basis that the Mintails Group were granted certain mining rights The financial provision has not materialised at all and if any, the areas has been wholly unrehabilitated.”

The FSE wants the court to order the various ministers to remediate and rehabilitate the environment by enforcing current directives and compliance notices against the directors and to “recover” funds from them to clean up degraded sites.

“Some subsidiaries have ‘shifted’ assets and liabilities between subsidiaries. This includes shifting a mining right (asset) to one subsidiary, whereas the environmental liability associated with the activities of the mining right has been shifted to another subsidiary with the entity holding the liability falling under business rescue and liquidation,” the affidavit states.

“It needs to be investigated whether the dispositions in the Mintails Group, specific to shifting assets and liabilities and ‘moving’ an environmental liability in the region of hundreds of millions of rands, was done for value and whether this was done fraudulently, alternatively recklessly and further alternatively with an intent to defraud creditors."

Liefferink details how the FSE has “literally begged” government departments to take action, “tirelessly submitting report after report” and conducting “well over 1 000” physical site inspections, to no avail.

“Despite issuing numerous pre-directives and directives and despite the FSE laying criminal charges (in 2014 against Mintails for non-compliance) the group and its board of directors in particular, have been allowed to carry on with business as usual.

“Without the relief sought, none of the roleplayers will even attempt to remediate and/or rehabilitate the environment. The sequence of events has been to to pass the buck, blame other departments and obfuscate.”

The state must “immediately do all things necessary, to cordon off affected mining areas and (ensure) safety mechanisms be adopted to safeguard the general public”.

“Indeed,” warns Liefferink, “people have already died and there exists an ongoing risk of poor public health, environmental catastrophe and even death regarding the areas and activities referred to, to the broader public.”

The Ministers of Minerals and Energy, Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation and the latter department's deputy director general have indicated their intention to oppose the matter.

Liefferink says the FSE's application is vital to address the governance of a company, “when the main benefactors of mining activities sit overseas and whereas the devastating consequences of their corporate greed is left to the poorest of the poor and overburdened taxpayers where the state has to intervene to prevent further degradation.

“The directors of Mintails need to be interrogated for their involvement in one of the country’s worst environmental catastrophes and to account to the public for their corporate decisions.”

MINING

Notification of the Withdrawal of the Application of an Amendment of the Environmental Authorisation and Environmental Management Programme for the Sweet Sensation Sand Mining Operation in Free State

The concerted efforts and submissions to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), the Applicant and its appointed Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) by the Protect Vaal Eden Committee, Vaal Eden community, and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment have resulted in the withdrawal of the application of an amendment of the environmental authorisation and environmental management programme for the Sweet Sensation Sand Mining operation adjacent to the Vaal River.  The EAP was notified by the DMRE that further specialist studies would be required to determine the impact the application for a screening plant and process would have on the environment and that a Regulation 31 amendment process, which involves a public participation process, must be undertaken.  The FSE welcomes the DMRE’s notification. Notification letter attached for download

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WITS Economics & Finance Courses: Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage

Economics & Finance Courses at the University of the Witwatersrand. Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage - Understand taxation for development and sustainability in mining. View the course here. Enrolment starts on the 7th of October 2019.

Mining activists in SA face death threats, intimidation and harassment - report

SATURDAY STAR | 19 APRIL 2019, 7:41PM | SHEREE BEGA Picture:Yvette Descham On August 13 2013, Billy M heard gunshots at the gate of his house. He didn't know who fired the gun, and, worried that local traditional leadership might be involved, he didn't report the incident to the police. For the next five years, the community activist from Fuleni, a small rural village in KwaZulu-Natal bordering one of SA's oldest and largest wilderness areas, the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, continued to receive threats.  "We know our lives are in danger. This is part of the struggle," he says, simply. Billy M's account is contained in a new report released this week, 'We know Our  Lives Are in Danger’: Environment of Fear in South Africa’s Mining-Affected Communities, which documents how community activists in mining areas face harassment, intimidation and violence. The report details how in Billy M's case, mining company Ibutho Coal had applied for rights to develop a coal mine in Fuleni in 2013. The development would have required the relocation of hundreds of people from their homes and farmland and destroy graveyards. "The mine's environmental impact assessment estimated that more than 6000 people living in the Fuleni area would be impacted. Blasting vibration, dust, and floodlights, too, could harm the community," says the report."During the environmental consultation processes, Billy M led opposition that culminated in a protest by community members in April 2016."The company reportedly abandoned the project in 2016 while another firm, Imvukuzane Resources is reportedly interested in mining in the area.The 74-page report, compiled by Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork, and Earthjustice, describes a system designed to "deter and penalise" mining opponents.The authors conducted interviews with more than 100 activists, community leaders, environmental groups, lawyers representing activists, police and municipal officials, describing the targeting of community rights defenders in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northwest, and Eastern Cape between 2013 and 2018. They report intimidation, violence, damage to property, the use of excessive force during peaceful protests, and arbitrary arrest for their activities in highlighting the negative impacts of mining projects on their communities. "The attacks and harassment have created an atmosphere of fear for community members who mobilise to raise concerns about damage to their livelihoods from the serious environmental and health risks of mining and coal-fired power plants," write the authors."Women often play a leading role in voicing these concerns, making them potential targets for harassment and attacks."But municipalities often impose barriers to protest on organisers that have no legal basis while government officials have failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse."Some mining companies resort to frivolous lawsuits and social media campaigns to further curb opposition to their projects.  The government has a Constitutional obligation to protect activists," write the authors. Picture: Shayne Robinson, Section 27 Authorities should address the environmental and health concerns related to mining "instead of harassing the activists voicing these concerns,” remarks Matome Kapa, attorney at the CER.The report starts with the high-profile murder of activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who was killed at his home after receiving anonymous death threats in 2016. Rhadebe was the chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), a community-based organisation formed in 2007 to oppose mining activity in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape.  "Members of his community had been raising concerns that the titanium mine that Australian company Mineral Commodities Ltd proposed to develop on South Africa’s Wild Coast would displace the community and destroy their environment, traditions, and livelihoods. More than three years later, the police have not identified any suspects in his killing."Nonhle Mbuthuma, another Xolobeni community leader and spokesperson of the ACC, has also faced harassment and death threats from unidentified individuals. "I know I am on the hit list.… If I am dying for the truth, then I am dying for a good cause. I am not turning back," she says.But other mining areas have had experiences similar to that of Xolobeni. "While Bazooka’s murder and the threats against Nonhle have received domestic and international attention, many attacks on activists have gone unreported or unnoticed both within and outside the  country."This is, in part, because of "fear of retaliation for speaking out, and because police sometimes do not investigate the attacks", the authors found.The origin of these attacks or threats are often unknown. "So are the perpetrators, but activists believe they may have been facilitated by police, government officials, private security providers, or others apparently acting on behalf of mining companies. "Threats and intimidation by other community members against activists often stem from a belief that activists are preventing or undermining an economically-beneficial mining project. In some cases, government officials or representatives of companies deliberately drive and exploit  these community divisions, seeking to isolate and stigmatize those opposing the mine."The Minerals Council South Africa, which represents 77 mining companies, including some in the research areas, responded that it “is not aware of any threats or attacks against community rights defenders where (its) members operate”.The authors state that while the mining sector and the government emphasise how mining is essential for economic development, "they fail to acknowledge that mining comes at a high environmental and social cost, and often takes place without adequate consultation with,or consent of, local communities".The absence of effective government oversight means that mining activities have harmed the rights of communities across South Africa in various ways. "Such activities have depleted water supplies, polluted the air, soil, and water, and destroyed arable land and ecosystems."Researchers also documented cases of police misconduct, arbitrary arrest, and excessive use of force during protests in mining-affected communities, "which is part of a larger pattern in South Africa".Last year, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University documented various efforts by traditional authorities to stifle opposition to mines in their communities. "In some cases, traditional authorities label those opposing mines as anti-development and troublemakers, thus alienating and stigmatising them.As a result, community members are often afraid to speak out against a mine in open consultations," CALS found.Research by the SA Human Rights Commission, too, has found that community members sometimes “are afraid to openly oppose the mine for fear of intimidation or unfavourable treatment (by the Traditional Authority)."The SAHRC says many mining-affected communities are experiencing “the creation of tension and division within communities as a result of mining operations.Sometimes, threats and intimidation against activists come from community members who have been promised economic benefit from the proposed project or are politically allied with the government or traditional authority."Local communities often do not benefit from mining activities, says the report. "Although South African law requires the development of social and labour plans (SLPs) that establish binding commitments by mining companies to benefit communities and mine workers, CALS has documented significant flaws in the development and implementation of SLPs."Despite the environmental and social costs of mining, the government is not adequately enforcing relevant environmental standards and mining regulations throughout South Africa. The SAHRC has found that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) often fails to hold mining companies accountable, "imposing few or no consequences for unlawful activities and therefore shifting the costs of pollution to local communities."Compliance with regulatory obligations, as well as monitoring and enforcement of such responsibilities, remains a crucial concern in the context of mining activities," says the SAHRC, noting how the DMR and other governmental agencies often do not respond to complaints filed against mines by community members.The report's authors describe how the lack of government action and oversight has also helped make the mining industry one of the least transparent industries in South Africa. Information that communities require to understand the impacts of mines and to hold mining companies accountable for harmful activities is often not publicly available. "Such information includes environmental authorisations, environmental management programs, waste management licences, atmospheric emission licences, mining rights, mining work programmes, social and labour plans, or compliance and enforcement information."The only way to access such information is through a request under South Africa’s access to information law, a procedure that the World Health Organisation has called 'seriously flawed' and which the DMR regularly flouts. In addition, mining companies and the government rarely consult meaningfully with communities during the mining approval process, resulting in uninformed and poor government and industry decisions that do not reflect community perspectives or have their support," says the report.The authors assert how the threats, attacks, and other forms of intimidation against community rights defenders and environmental groups have created an environment of fear "that prevents mining opponents from exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and undermines their ability to defend themselves from the threats of mining".In its November 2018 review of South Africa’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about “reports of human rights defenders, particularly those working to promote and defend the rights under the Covenant in the mining and environmental sectors, being threatened and harassed". It recommended that South Africa provide a safe and favourable environment for the work of human rights defenders to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights, including by "ensuring that all reported cases of intimidation, harassment, and violence against human rights defenders are promptly and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice". Mining activist Mariette Liefferink, who made submissions to the UN committee, tells how it has become increasingly difficult to work as an environmental rights defender in South Africa.   "There is an overwhelming body of evidence of intimidation, whether it is by means of frontal attacks or more insidious attacks on activists."International and South African law requires South Africa to guarantee the rights of all people to life, security, freedoms of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and the rights to health and a healthy environment, say the authors."The attacks, threats, and obstacles to peaceful protest described in this report prevent many community activists in South Africa from exercising these rights to oppose or raise concerns about mines, in violation of South Africa’s obligations." 

WATER

Development of the National Eutrophication Strategy and Supporting Documents

Attached documents:1. DWS Eutrophication SA & GA PSC 1 BID2. PSC 1 Meeting Agenda - Eutrophication Strategy3. Issues and Response Register - Inception Report Comments

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