As you are aware, amendments have been proposed to the Financial Provisioning Regulations, 2015 which substantially change the amended version that was gazetted for comment in November 2017, and discussed in the stakeholder workshops held since the release of the November 2017 version and the 2nd half of 2018. The proposed amendments were gazetted on Friday 7 May 2019, and a period of 45 days have been allowed in which to received inputs and comments.
In order to explain the rational for the changes and to provide a platform for further engagement before the close of the comment period, the Department will hold a stakeholder workshop as indicated below:
Date: 12th June 2019
Venue: To be confirmed but will be held in central Pretoria
Time: 8h30 – 12h30
The gazetted regulations can be downloaded from the Departments website at: https://www.environment.gov.za/
We look forward to engaging with you further on these important regulations at this planned workshop.
New statistics released in Parliament show that 118 mines around South Africa are polluting rivers, inadequately testing for contamination or otherwise dirtying South Africa’s waterways.
The figures, released by the minister of water and sanitation, Gugile Nkwinti, also show that 115 mines are known to be operating without proper water permits. This represents a significant increase from 2014, when the South African Human Rights Commission found 39 mines to be noncompliant.
Violators are spread across every province and include major corporations such as AngloGold Ashanti, De Beers, Glencore and Anglo American Platinum.
In response to parliamentary questions posed by Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts, the minister released the data, compiled by the department, in April.
It showed that during the past financial year, more than 15% of the 712 mines licensed to use or to have an effect on water sources had failed to comply with the water-use licences that stipulate the conditions of that usage.
Asked what steps would be taken to address the deficiencies, Nkwinti responded: “It is not clear why transgressors resort to operation of mines without the requisite authorisation; however, the department continues to intensify activities to protect the water resources, as mandated by the National Water Act.”
Alberts told Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism that he had referred the list of transgressions, which covers the years 2015 to 2018, to the department’s Blue Scorpions regulatory unit. This is the group tasked with finding people who break water law, and fining them.
“Even though mines are a part of our economy, we need to find a balance between just getting the profits out of the ground and leaving nature spoiled and people who live there becoming sick,” said Alberts.
The data covers a wide range of permit violations: polluted water discharged directly into the environment, waste piles contaminating groundwater, unlined wastewater retention ponds, oil spills, insufficient monitoring, excessive dewatering of the underground void and poor record-keeping.
As climate change continues to worsen South Africa’s water security, the mining industry’s number of water-related infractions is rising.
In 2017-2018, the department found 10 more mines significantly out of compliance with their water-use permits than the year before, and 38 more than in 2015-2016.
Much of the mining negatively affecting water is in the coalfields of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, which ranked first and second, respectively, in the number of mines out of compliance with their water-use licences.
Saul Roux, a science and policy specialist at the nonprofit legal group Centre for Environmental Rights, said acid mine drainage poses mining’s most significant threat to clean water resources. Coal mining on the Highveld overlaps with large portions of the country’s 22 designated strategic water-source areas, which provide 60% of all South Africans with water, he said. “Our scarce water resources are affected throughout the coal life cycle, including direct effects on water quality during coal mining, effects of air pollutants on water resources and coal ash contamination of groundwater,” Roux said.
But companies’ responses to questions about the data highlighted the disorganisation in the government bureaucracy meant to police them. In recent years, the department has had only 35 compliance and enforcement officials to cover the entire country. This is according to a report by the South African Water Caucus, a group of nongovernmental organisations and trade unions set up to study water use.
The data listed elevated levels of pollutants at Glencore’s Mpumalanga mines, for example, but company spokesperson Lerato Setsiba said the department had not informed the company of the infraction.
“Glencore has an extensive water-monitoring network on all sites where water qualities are measured every month and investigations are conducted on any exceedance of water quality,” Setsiba said in a statement.
Other major mining companies also defended their infractions.
Anglo American Platinum’s spokesperson, Jana Marais, responded to the findings that several of its mines, including the Twickenham Platinum Mine in Mpumalanga, discharged polluted water. She said the company was spending millions of rand on upgrading water infrastructure at the mine and that an external audit had found higher compliance with water permits than the department found.
Chris Nthite, AngloGold’s representative, said the company was aware of the listed violations — which included waste spillages, stormwater management issues and unauthorised water use — and had addressed them. “[AngloGold] has offered measures to remedy any problem, or has not been contacted further.”
The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, did not respond to requests for comment on why the department allowed mining companies to continue operating with outstanding infractions.
Neither did the department of mineral resources. Its spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi, instead referred questions about potential inter-agency co-operation in the policing of mining companies back to the water department.
With water pollution continuing largely unchecked, environmental activists have taken to the courts to protect water resources in both the coalfields and gold-mining basins.
Mariette Liefferink, chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said her group is in the process of filing litigation against the ministers of water and sanitation and of mineral resources, among other parties, for their role in the environmental catastrophe unfolding at the Mintails SA gold mines on the West Rand.
A parliamentary inquiry revealed late last year that the government allowed mining to continue at Mintails after mine waste spilt into waterways and children had drowned in open mining pits.
This inquiry also revealed that the company’s liabilities ran to R460-million — that is the amount of money the company would require to repair all the damage to the environment.
In the 2015-2016 period, Mintails complied with less than a quarter of its water-use licence requirements, according to the data released in Parliament.
With the company liquidated, mining at the operations near Krugersdorp have largely halted and any proceeds are flowing back to investors in London.
“There is a significant lack of political will, which means polluters can continue with impunity to ignore directives,” Liefferink said. — oxpeckers.org
This report was sponsored by #MineAlert and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa
DOCUMENTS SUPPORTING THIS ARTICLE HAVE BEEN ATTACHED.
Please see attached Financial Provisioning Notice. Comments are due 45 days from the date of publication (Notice published on 17 May 2019).
The FSE recently presented a keynote address at the Australian Centre of Geomechanics’ 22nd International Conference on Paste and Tailings.
Please find attached hereto the programme and the FSE’s sample paper.
SUCCESS: ATHA’S PETITION TO THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL FOR LEAVE (PERMISSION) TO APPEAL THE PROTECTED AREAS JUDGEMENT DENIED!
The High Court, in January 2019, dismissed Atha’s application for leave to appeal. Atha petitioned the SCA for leave to appeal the Protected Areas judgement that was obtained in the High Court in November, 2018 by a Coalition of NGOs, of which the FSE is a party to.
The SCA dismissed Atha’s petition for leave to appeal, with costs. This means that Atha doesn’t have permission to appeal the Protected Areas judgement and is required to pay the costs incurred in opposing the petition. The Court Order is attached.
The judgment secured in November 2018 remains intact.
For background: In 19 March 2019 the CER on behalf of the Coalition lodged the Coalition’s answering affidavit to Atha’s petition with the SCA. Attached is the affidavit. Atha was entitled to reply to the Coalition’s answering affidavit by 2 April 2019, but they did not exercise that right.
Find the following documents attached for donwload:
The FSE is in possession of the subjoined presentations and supporting documentation pertaining to the Gauteng EIA Sector Stakeholder Seminar, which the FSE will forward on request.
The FSE’s presentation is attached hereto.
These documents include:
1. EAPASA and
2. The Federation for a Sustainable Environment.
The FSE is a member of the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Steering Committee for the Continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System reconciliation Strategy Study – Phase 2 and participated in the 2nd SCC which was held on the 13th of February, 2019.
The Agenda included the following Items:
i. Eradication of Unlawful Irrigation
ii. DWS Water Management Plans
iii. Implementation of LHWP Phase 2
iv. Noordoewer/Vioolsdrift Dam Feasibility Study
v. Water Quality Management
4. Water Balance Status
The FSE will supply the above-mentioned presentations on request.
A Battle to Hold Mining Company Accountable
Mintails left behind a R460 million ‘environmental mess’
Saturday Star | 23 Feb 2019 | SHEREE BEGA
MINTAILS, a gold mining company on the West Rand, has long been red-flagged for causing environmental damage at its operations. | BHEKIKHAYA MABASO African News Agency (ANA)
MARIETTE Liefferink toys absently with the faux gold necklace coiled tightly around her neck like a scarf.
“Perhaps, if people ask me, I can say we can all look pretty with imitation gold,” she says, flashing a smile.
The 65-year-old mining activist does not wear real gold – and she never will. The reason lies all around her here on the polluted gold fields of the West Rand.
Today, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) is showing the R460 million environmental “mess” left behind by Mintails, a liquidated gold mining and tailings processing company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
She gestures to a cluster of unrehabilitated mine dumps on Main Reef Road. “At all their sites, there’s no access control, no stormwater and dust control or any other mitigation or management of the dumps and tailings storage facilities. This has created opportunities for zama zamas to conduct their mining operations.”
For the past 12 years, Liefferink’s quest has been to obtain “justice for communities, future generations and the mute receiving environment” affected by Mintails expansive operations stretching across Krugersdorp and Randfontein.
She has spent hundreds of hours compiling complaints and requests to authorities for investigations and enforcement, lodging Promotion of Access to Information Act requests and analysing water quality results.
The embattled firm applied for business rescue in October 2015, but was liquidated in September last year. It has an unfunded environmental liability of R485 million, but only around R25 million financial provision in its environmental rehabilitation funds.
The “delinquency”, argues Liefferink, is not only on the part of the firm and its directors but also the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) for their non-enforcement of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), National Water Act and the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
“The DMR, as well as the DWS, allowed Mintails to operate from 2012 to 2018 without a mining right, an approved environmental management programme report and financial provisions.”
While the DMR and DWS issued the company with several pre-directives and directives for non-compliance since 2013, these were not enforced.
“This resulted in this unfunded environmental liability of R460 million, clusters of open pits of 40m deep, partially reclaimed tailings storage facilities, unrehabilitated footprints and toxic and radioactive dams.”
Last week, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), which represents the FSE, sent a final letter of demand to the DMR and DWS, to urgently intervene in addressing Mintails’ pollution. If the departments did not adequately respond by yesterday, the matter will head to court imminently.
The letter states that the DMR and DWS must enforce their directives as a matter of urgency and provide a date by when compliance must be achieved by the liquidators and directors.
“The DWS, the Mintails Group and their violations was an agenda item on every Wonderfonteinspruit catchment management forum meeting with minutes taken. No action was taken by DWS,” states Lucien Limacher, the acting regional director of the LRC, in the letter.
The letter demands that the DMR and the DWS must issue new directives to the liquidators and directors of Mintails to start remedial action and “contain the toxic sludge that is currently polluting and degrading the environment as a matter of urgency”. Further damage is allegedly being caused by continuing open pit mining.
The DMR “must take reasonable measures to remedy the situation” or apply to a competent court should the Mintails Group not comply or inadequately comply with the directives.
“Should the Mintails Group not comply with the directives, in terms of NEMA, the DMR (must) issue an ex parte application against the Mintails Group to attach and seize property and cover the expenses of the rehabilitation in terms of section 45 of the MPRDA.”
The letter also states how the DMR and the Commission and Intellectual Property Commission “must hold accountable the directors of Mintails for the rehabilitation infringements by bringing a delinquency application” under the Companies Act.
“The directors have grossly abused the position of director, intentionally or negligently, inflicted harm upon the company and the subsidiaries, acted in a manner that amounted to gross negligence and have repeatedly been personally subject to directives from the DMR and DWS.”
In November, a report by the Parliamentary portfolio committee on mineral resources stated how the DMR had failed to ensure Mintails had made the required provision to repair over R300m of environmental damage. The report was sparked by a probe into Mintails collapse by investigative environmental journalism unit, Oxpeckers.
“The committee is often confronted by instances of the devastation caused by careless mining where the DMR says it is a state liability because no one can be found to take responsibility.
“In the case of the Mintails operation, this mine went into business rescue in 2015, at a time when the mining company had an unfunded environmental liability of over R300m. It had saved barely R20m for all its responsibilities.”
The committee’s report noted how Mintails disputed its environmental liability, employing consultants who offered estimates far lower than those of the DMR.
The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), which conducted a site visit in December as the waste had a “radioactive/nuclear element, according to the FSE, says an internal process is under way.
“You can rest assured that the NNR will play its regulatory role and discharge its responsibilities in accordance with its mandate regarding this matter,” it says.
Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for the DWS, explains how it issued Mintails with a pre-directive in November 2017. “This required Mintails to cease the seepage of Lancaster Dam wall, clean historic spillages along the reclamation pipeline, rehabilitate the wetlands in the proximity of its tailing storage facility and address inadequate stormwater management.”
But the Mintails response to the pre-directive was “deemed unsatisfactory” by the DWS in a letter dated June 28 2018.” The firm then submitted a detailed implementation plan to curb the pollution to the DWS on July 2.
However, when Mintails was placed under provisional liquidation in August last year, this “derailed all the progress that was achieved through the pre-directive process”.
The DWS is now seeking legal advice internally. “Does the issued pre-directive and commitment made by Mintails carry over to the liquidators, directors and business rescue practitioner? Are the directors and business rescue practitioner legally obliged to comply to the issued pre-directive and implementation plan submitted by Mintails?
“Are the liquidators legally obligated to deal with operational issues such as a directive and pollution considering that they are appointed for a limited period to collect all the assets of the mine to settle the claims of its creditors and distribute any of the remainder of the assets to the shareholders of the mine.”
The DWS was previously advised in a similar case that it is not the duty of liquidators to manage the day to day business. “Their objective is to realise assets on behalf of creditors. As such, liquidators cannot be directed to manage pollution.”
Liefferink worries about impunity. “It would appear when a mining company is in business rescue or liquidation, then the directors and liquidators have no duty of care and simply walk away. The environment, future generations and communities must carry the impact, as in the case of Blyvoor and Aurora. That is totally contrary to the polluter pays principle.”
Ratau says the DWS would conduct a site investigation with the liquidators yesterday to “verify the allegations of pollution”.
The mandate of rehabilitation rests with the DMR. “However, DWS is engaging the DMR to ensure that water resources are protected.”
The Legal Resources Centre, which represents the FSE, sent a final letter of demand to the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Water and Sanitation, on the 14th of February, 2019 to urgently intervene in addressing Mintails’ pollution. If the departments do not adequately respond by the 22nd of February, 2019, the FSE shall proceed to initiate legal action.
Letter of demand and annexures attached for download.
New blow for would-be Mpumalanga coal miner
29 January 2019 | By John Yeld
Surprise move by MEC for Environmental Affairs Vusi Shongwe
A new blow has been dealt to attempts to open a coal mine in protected Mpumalanga grasslands. Photo: supplied
A surprise, flip-flop decision by Mpumalanga MEC for Environmental Affairs Vusi Shongwe has delivered another blow to an Indian mining company trying to establish a huge new coal mine in a critical water catchment area.
Shongwe’s decision has reignited a vicious Twitter exchange about the proposed mine.
Atha-Africa Ventures, a local subsidiary of India-based transnational mining and minerals company Atha Group, is attempting to develop the Yzermyn coal mine, an underground mine with a projected 15-year-lifespan that lies within the Mabola Protected Environment (MPE).
The MPE was proclaimed in January 2014 to help protect a strategic water catchment and crucial biodiversity area of the highly threatened Mpumalanga grasslands and wetlands.
In November last year, during a legal challenge to the mine, Shongwe suddenly published a Notice of Intention in the Provincial Gazette to exclude three of the properties that make up the proposed coal mine from the protected environment – a move that would have effectively paved the way for mining.
In an affidavit, Shongwe explained that he had been approached during March 2018 by members of the local community with a request to exclude the protected properties.
But in mid-December – and equally unexpectedly – Shongwe signed a new notice to withdraw his original Notice of Intention, with no reasons being given for his change of heart. That decision was published in the Provincial Gazette on 25 January.
The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) had filed a 22-page objection to the proposed excision of the coal mining properties from the MPE, pointing out that Shongwe’s plan was to facilitate the development of the proposed Yzermyn coal mine.
The CER said that, as part of his initial rationale for wanting to excise the properties from the protected area, Shongwe had included a memorandum dated 6 March 2018 from a Volksrust-based civic organisation, the Voice Community Representative Council, that purported to represent the majority of people living in the Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Municipality.
The memorandum, that had raised “serious concerns” about declaring the Mabola Protected Environment, had been accompanied by a petition signed by some 8,500 community members, Shongwe said.
However, the CER pointed out in its objection that the petition was dated 30 August 2013, and had been submitted to then environment MEC “Pinky” Phosa when she was considering declaring the Mabola Protected Environment. “The Petition is of little, if any, relevance to the Exclusion Notice presently before the Honourable MEC [Shongwe],” the CER argued.
Responding to an invitation by GroundUp to comment, Atha-Africa said it had not made any representations on Shongwe’s original Notice of Intention and did not have any comment on the matter.
“Atha is aware that the community of Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme opposed the declaration of the Mabola Protected Environment in 2014 and a petition was signed by over 9,000 community members against the declaration. Only the local community can comment if this latest decision to withdraw the notice of intention to exclude properties from Mabola Protected Environment has the community’s buy-in or not,” the company said.
However, that careful response was in sharp contrast to what transpired on Twitter.
Environmental journalist Elise Tempelhoff posed a question to Atha-Africa senior vice-president Praveer Tripathi on Twitter, asking whether Shongwe’s latest decision meant that Atha-Africa had now “given up” on Mabola.
The head of the Voice Community Representative Council, Thabiso Nene, who tweets as @madlokovu15, jumped in with a reply, labelling Tempelhoff’s question “disgusting”.
In a second tweet to Tempelhoff, Nene said:
“Fun hw u have been absent when community was rejecting CER [Centre for Environmental Rights]. Bt not surprise yo kind tell the story of the elite. Watch the next move of the community. We will not rest till we have our democratic way. Even if Atha give up, community will not quite [quit].”
Both Nene’s tweets also tagged Tripathi, who has waged a bitter Twitter war against opponents of Atha-Africa’s proposed coal mine but who insists that his tweets reflect his personal views and not his company’s.
Tripathi tweeted several times, tagging both Tempelhoff and Nene. One of his Tweets reads:
“If the community gives up it would mean that a handful of foreign funded anti-development anti-people CSO’s [Civil Society Organisations] with media in their support can stop any development and employment with their slick lies. Their tactics are abominable but what’s more sick is that media can’t see it.”
In other tweets, he makes new derogatory and defamatory remarks about the CER, which is representing the eight members of a Coalition opposing development of the proposed coal mine. This was despite Tripathi telling the Minerals Council of South Africa (formerly the Chamber of Mines) – in response to a formal complaint to the council by the CER – last year that he would be “more sensitive” in his social media comments about those opposing his company’s attempt to mine coal at Yzermyn.
This Economic Impact Assessment Report is one of the additional specialist studies requested by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in 2018 for the Basic Assessment Report (BAR) process being conducted for the Tja Naledi Barrage Sand Mine, located along the banks of the Vaal River, on the northern boundary of the Ngwanthe Local Municipality in the Fezile Dabi Magisterial district, Free State Province.
While it has not been possible to undertake a strategic economic assessment of suitable land use developments for this area (as requested by the local Federation for Sustainable Environment (FSE) during the assessment process), this Economic Impact Assessment has gone beyond the normal scope of assessing the positive economic impacts of the proposed mining amendment, and considered the negative economic impacts.
The Report concluded:
“Our recommendation is that DMR carefully consider how they will ensure the effective management of the cumulative impacts of sand mining in this and other areas along the Vaal River. To do this, it will be necessary to develop a regional perspective on the existing sand and gravel mines as well as the applications for mining rights, and develop a regulatory strategy that can manage the number of mines in each locality and the economic impacts on other economic activities.
With respect to the current applications by Tja Naledi and Pure Source, the economic impacts of these mines on existing economic activities and the marginal economic situation for these mines, suggests that it would not be appropriate to approve these mining applications at this stage. Alternatively, they could be approved subject to the mitigation measures recommended and included in their EMPs, if and when the mine’s business financials are proven to be viable (given the broader market context) and can cover the cost of the mitigation measures that are needed to minimise the visual, noise, dust and traffic impacts. This may encourage the mining companies to look for sand mining opportunities in areas where the visual, noise, dust and traffic impacts are minor.”
The above recommendations by the independent consultants (Eviro Works) are seen by the FSE, Vaal Eden Committee as significantly supportive of its arguments that sand mining is not the best practicable environmental option for the area.
The Report is attached for download.
De Beers withdraws Groot Marico application
SATURDAY STAR / 8 JANUARY 2019, 12:07PM / SHEREE BEGA
One of the three eyes that supplies water to the Groot Marico River. PABALLO THEKISO
Mining giant De Beers has withdrawn its application to prospect for potential diamond-bearing rock in the highly sensitive catchment of the Groot Marico River.
This comes after a judicial review application was launched by a community organisation, Mmutlwa wa Noko, which works to maintain the integrity of the pristine river and its catchment, last year.
Mmutlwa wa Noko launched the application after the now-deceased Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, dismissed over 140 appeals in 2016, against the environmental authorisation granted to the mining firm.
“The Groot Marico, which is fed by dolomite eyes, is one of the last remaining surface-flowing fresh water resources in the North West,” said Mmutlwa wa Noko. “The waters of the upper Groot Marico River, across which the prospecting rights application falls, is so pure that it is safe to drink directly from the river. It is one of the few remaining free-flowing stretches of river in South Africa.”
Last July, the Groot Marico Biosphere Reserve was declared by Unesco, becoming the first biosphere in North West, safeguarding its dolomitic aquifer system.
In November 2015, De Beers had applied for environmental authorisation to prospect for kimberlite in the areas of Swartruggens, Mabaalstad/Koster and Groot Marico within the Groot Marico River catchment.
“The application area lies immediately upstream of the town of Groot Marico and the adjoining township of Reboile, both of which are dependent on the Groot Marico River for water,” said Mmutlwa wa Noko.
Prospecting was granted to De Beers in February 2016, and over 140 appeals were submitted.
In December 2017, the appeals directorate of the Department of Environmental Affairs informed interested and affected parties that Molewa had dismissed the appeals.
“On June 6, 2018, Mmutlwa wa Noko launched judicial review proceedings in the North Gauteng High Court against the minister, the regional manager of minerals regulation and De Beers. De Beers did not oppose. The minister and regional manager both opposed.
“On October 23, our attorney was informed by the State Attorney that De Beers was excluding from their application the areas of Modderfontein, Vergenoeg and Wonderfontein, and also that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) was unconditionally withdrawing its opposition in this matter. On October 25, 2018, the State Attorney filed a notice of withdrawal for DMR.
“At this stage, no notice of withdrawal has been submitted for the minister, but the minister's office has not submitted an answering affidavit within the time allowed by the High Court rules.
“Accordingly, the matter has been set down on the unopposed motion roll for a judge to officially set aside the granting of the environmental authorisation on the first available court date, which is May 6.
“This means that there will be no prospecting or mining by De Beers in the application areas within the Groot Marico River catchment. The judicial review application had the desired effect,” it said.
The Groot Marico River catchment is a key strategic water resource for the North West and has been declared a national freshwater ecosystem priority area by the SA National Biodiversity Institute.
The river is of international significance as it provides Gaborone with water and ultimately becomes the Limpopo River, which flows through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) also appealed the authorisation of the De Beer's application.
“The reasons for our appeal were an alleged flawed public participation process and the fact that this matter resolves around the issue of prospecting in an area of highest biodiversity importance and a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area,” explained Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the FSE.
High Court refuses mining company’s leave to appeal
A strategic water source area already protected by law is protected by the courts.
Sasha Planting / 23 January 2019 00:41
Mining companies have left a heavy imprint on Mpumalanga, a biodiverse region vital to SA's water supply. Civil society is fighting back. Image: Supplied
Yesterday the North Gauteng High Court refused mining company Atha Africa leave to appeal the court’s decision to set aside permissions for a new coal mine inside a declared protected environment.
This is a victory for the eight civil society organisations represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), which have opposed the mining venture since 2015. At the time, then minister of mineral resources Mosebenzi Zwane and the late minister of environmental affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, granted Atha-Africa Ventures – an Indian-owned mining company – the right to mine coal in an area in Mpumalanga that was declared a Protected Environment in January 2014.
Known as the Mabola Protected Environment, it was declared such by the Mpumalanga provincial government as part of more than 70 000 hectares of protected area in the Mpumalanga grasslands. This followed years of research and planning by a number of government agencies, including the department of environmental affairs, the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency.
In 2016, without public consultation and without notice, the two ministers gave their permission for a large 15-year coal mine to be built inside the Mabola Protected Environment.
This was move was greeted with dismay by South Africa’s green lobby.
The Mabola Protected Environment is situated outside Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga and falls within what has been classified as one of 22 Strategic Water Source Areas by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, a government body, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Strategic Water Source Areas constitute just 8% of SA’s land but provide more than 50% of our freshwater.
“The organisations opposing this particular mine do so because the proposed mine would be inside a declared protected area and a strategic water source area: with acid mine drainage estimated to require water treatment until 2097, the mine would threaten water security not only in the local area but in the region,” says CER attorney Catherine Horsfield. “The damage that this mine would do to water resources cannot be undone. The organisations that have brought this action are deeply committed to job creation and improving the quality of life of local people, but we also know that instead of bringing wealth and livelihoods, coal mining has devastated the lives, health and well-being of communities across the Highveld.”
In November 2018 the Pretoria High Court set aside the ministers’ approval and referred the decision back to them for reconsideration.
Relying on the decisions of others
The court set aside the decision on the basis that the decision-making process was not transparent, was procedurally unfair (there was no public participation process) and the ministers failed to independently and distinctively apply their minds to the decision, instead relying on the decisions of other decision-makers in relation to other approvals.
In light of the lack of transparency and public participation, the court handed down a punitive costs order against the ministers and the MEC.
Yesterday, the court heard Atha Africa’s application for leave to appeal the November decision to a full bench of the high court. The court refused Atha’s application and awarded costs against it.
The ministers of mineral resources and environmental affairs, as well as the Mpumalanga MEC, had also applied for leave to appeal the court’s decision but withdrew their application yesterday. The court ordered that the state pay the coalition’s wasted legal costs in preparing to oppose that application.
The coalition that brought the court application to set aside permissions for the proposed coal mine comprises the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of SA, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, BirdLife SA, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, the Association for Water and Rural Development, and the Bench Marks Foundation.
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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Millions of South Africans are exposed to radioactive radon gas in their homes and workplaces every day, as the naturally occurring gas escapes through cracks in the earth. The second leading cause of lung cancer in several countries, radon breaks down and when inhaled, decaying atoms emit alpha radiation that can damage the DNA. There are no safe levels of radon concentration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency emphasises any radon exposure has some risk of causing lung cancer. Carte Blanche investigates why South Africa has no regulations to protect against radon accumulation in the home and what you can do to test your home and prevent lung cancer. Watch the video here.
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.
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."
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
Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms wat...
Comments attached for download....