Nuclear News

Open-cast· coal mine a threat to Springs wetland

Saturday, 03 June 2017 12:44
Rate this item
(6 votes)

WITH hands covered with liver spots, Stan Madden points out the expanse of Aston Lake glimmering  in  the  distance Fields of near-ripened meal­ies and clusters of soya beans stretch across this fertile, wet­land-sodden landscape on the outskirts of Springs

"This whole area is covered with farms and wetlands," enthuses Madden, his face creased with wrinkles.

"It's one of the finest areas in Gauteng for farming."

But perhaps not for much longer. A new mining rush is under way in Springs, where companies are eager  to  get to the coal that runs beneath Madden's feet.

In one of the latest bids, Pandospan, a subsidiary of Canyon Coal, on behalf of An­ glo Operations, is hoping to get the green light for its proposed open-cast mine, Palmietkuilen, right here.

For Madden, who is affe­ tionately known as the "Father of the Blesbokspruit", this could spell disaster for the wetland system he has fought to safeguard since "falling in love with it" in 1948.

And, at nearly 90, Madden still has some fight left in him. "The time has come when we have to say, as custodians of our environment, that enough mining is enough.

"In Springs we live with the polluted legacy of gold mining all over. We're left with the legacies from the horror of mining companies like Aurora Empowerment Systems.

"This hasn't given the Springs community any faith in mining. Now they want the coal too," he shakes his head, frustrated.

Coal miners such as Ngu­lulu Resources, Exxaro and Universal Coal have report­edly set their sights on the surrounds.

"There's vast reserves, but the coal is very poor quality."

He would know. Madden spent over 30 years  working at the Marievale Consolidated Mines, in the surveying depart-

ment. Anglo's environmental consultants, Digby Wells En vironmental, acknowledge the proposed Palmietkuilen project will have major negative impacts on the receiving environment.

Its latest final environmental impact assessment report speaks of the loss of important wetland habitat and "irreversible impacts on the land use" that will also displace  households.

Canyon Coal plans to mine at least 200 000 tons of coal a month over the next 53 years.

Locals claim thousands of people will be affected, but Canyon Coal dismisses some claims that as many as 10 000 people could be forced out as "sensation seeking".

Digby Wells Environmental says the wetland systems "play an important ecological role" as tributaries of the Blesbok­ spruit Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, and some of the project area is mapped as critical biodiversity areas.

In their written comments, affected maize farms like Schoeman Umbilo Boerdery, which contributes 10% of Gauteng's agriculture; tell how, "farmland can produce food for a nation for thousands of years - the life of an opencast coal mine is a drip in a bucket in comparison".

Large egg producer Rossgro too says coal mining impacts will "have a· destroying effect" on its broiler business. · "Clean air, minimum noise and uncontaminated water are key components to a chicken broiler and egg producing business."

"It will be a travesty ·of jus­tice if this open-cast coal mine is allowed to go ahead on this farm, · which produces  10% of the agricultural ,output  of Gauteng," says attorney Philip de Jager, who represents several communities in the coal mining fight. "It will cause the permanent destruction of some of the best agricultural land in Gauteng."

He has lodged appeals against the granting of a mining right to Canyon Coal for an adjoining  farm.

If it fails and a mining right is granted for Palmiet­ kuilen then "this will mean the communities of Aston Lake and Largo will be completely surrounded by open cast coal mines, which will have a major negative impact in Springs".

Michelle Winn, and her hus­band, Graham agree. They run a top equestrian facility, just outside Springs. "Look, our horses drink from our bore­holes. If that's contaminated, we've got a huge problem. They already don't like the water because of mining contamin­ation.

"We have 85 horses on our property, among them valu­able imported horses. If they can't drink, they'll have to move, which means our busi­ness shuts down. We already have  horses  with  lung  allergies, because of all these mine dumps."

Elias Letseleha, who lives in an informal settlement near the proposed mine, says many locals need work.

"We've heard rumours that we will be moved but we don't know for sure."

The report predicts ·there will be decant points into the surrounding environment and it is anticipated this decant will be acid-forming.

"These areas are in dir­ect contact with the sensitive wetlands of the surrounding landscape and are all wetlands drain in into the Aston Lake and surrounding wetlands.

"This represents major negative  impacts  to the wet­lands and water resources of the local area and catchment." In 1986, the .Blesbokspruit, which feeds the Marievale Bird Sanctuary in Springs and flows into the . Vaal was designated a  Ramsar  wetland  of   inter­national importance.

But it was- later placed on the Montreux Record because of  gold mining pollution.

The Anglo project has now endangered efforts, he says, to get it removed from the Montreux Record, spurred by the completion of the Depart­ment of Water Affairs and Sanitation's new acid mine drainage treatment plant at the nearby Grootvlei mine, which discharges partially treated mine water - with high sul­phate loads - into the Blesbok­ spruit. "We want it back to its full status," says Madden. "There's a lot of work being done by provincial state conservation authorities. I've been monitoring bird populations and they're going up, despite the pollution."

But the irony for De Jager and Madden · is that  in 2012, Anglo donated 750ha of land known as the Anglo Reserve, located within the Ramsar area to Gauteng, to have the area in­corporated into the Marievale Bird sanctuary.

"Taxpayers' money was used to erect the Rlbn AMD plant and will have to foot the bill to treat any further ;AMD from the proposed mine," says De Jager, in an angry recent letter to the Department of Mineral Resource's environ­mental directorate.

"It beggars belief that the applicant could donate its pristine reserve to the province, on the one hand, and then a few years later elect to commence with open cast coal mining, which could lead to the de­struction of the Ramsar site and destroy the huge potential for ecotourism in this new enlarged sanctuary."

Mariette Liefferink, of the Federation for Sustainable En­vironment, says the additional salinity from the proposed mine will result in "unaccept­able levels of salinity, profound and irreversible impacts on the Blesbokspruit's ecosystem and water security risks to the Vaal River system, including down stream water users".

Canyon Coal says it strives to conduct its operations "in the most . environmentally conscious way" to create "the smallest footprint possible".

Clifford HaJ.latt, its exploration and mine development manager, says the need for the project and its desirability as well as mitigation measures are clearly set out in the final EIA report.

"The report was finalised after all the concerns and objections raised during the thorough public participation was addressed and incorporated. It was made available to all inter­ested and affected parties."

 

 

Read 21566 times

MINING

BASEL GOLD DAY - HOW TO OBTAIN CLEAN GOLD: THE FSE'S PRESENTATION

Please find the following attached for download: 1. Basel Gold Day: How to obtain clean gold - the consumer perspective 2. Basel Gold Day: Presentation by the FSE

PROPOSED ARTISANAL MINING POLICY - DMRE'S PRESENTATION AND FSE'S SUBMISSION

Attached for download: 1. ASM Policy 20202. FSE's Submission...

SA NEWS

FSE - DONATION OF TREES AND TREE PLANTING IN SIMUNYE, WEST RAND IN ASSOCIATION WITH SOUTH DEEP MINE

The FSE, in association with Gold Fields’ South Deep Mine, donated 40 white Karee Trees (Searsia penduline) during Arbor Week to the mining affected community of Simunye in the West Rand and participated in the tree planting ceremony with the community of Simunye, the local Municipality and officials from South Deep Mine.  The FSE also delivered a presentation during the ceremony.

"Varkies" gou op hok, maar als nie pluis | Beeld

Article also available for download as an attachment.

Radon Alert - Carte Blanche

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.

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.

WATER

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s ongoing role in addressing the sewage pollution in the Vaal River

‘People the same as pigs’ in the VaalBy Sheree Bega | 16 Oct 2020 Foul: Pigs root in sludge in Emfuleni municipality. (Photos: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G) Clutching her one-year-old son, Monica Ndakisa jumps onto a brick to avoid the sewage that runs like a dark stain across the passage in her home.  “We’ve lived like this for years,” she says pointing to one of the culprits: her blocked toilet, which causes sewage to pool into nearly every room of her home in Sebokeng hostel in the Vaal. “The smell is too terrible.” It’s worse outside. Her small garden is submerged in a sickly, grey sewage swamp. To stop the human waste from seeping inside, Ndakisa has built a concrete barrier at her front door. But it’s futile. “My five-year-old son was in the hospital for two weeks with severe eczema and they told me it’s because of all this sewage. It makes us cough all the time. It’s so depressing to live like this.” Samson Mokoena, of the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (Veja), shakes his head. “It’s chaos. You can’t allow people to live in such conditions. The government is playing with our people.” Ndakisa’s neighbour, Maphelo Apleni, has used pipes to divert the stream of sewage from his garden. “It never stops,” he says grimly. “We have a municipality [Emfuleni] that doesn’t care about us.” Mziwekaya Mokwana points at a sewage-filled furrow clogged with litter where pigs are feeding. “This is no better life,” he says. “People are the same as pigs here.” Sewage in Vaal River system  Last month, the human settlements, water and sanitation department said it would take at least another three years to minimise and eventually stop the sewage flowing into the Vaal River system. In a recent presentation, it states how “design treatment capacity is at its limit, housing development investments are delayed and there are negative environmental and health impacts”. Ageing infrastructure is to blame for sewage spillages, coupled “with a lack of operation and maintenance investment” as well as theft and vandalism.  It will cost about R2.2-billion “to have a sustainable impact on the Vaal River catchment within Emfuleni local municipality”. The department’s plan aims to safeguard infrastructure; repair the bulk network to eliminate spillages, key and critical pump stations and rising mains; refurbish wastewater treatment works “in an attempt to comply with discharge licence conditions”; and achieve operation and maintenance requirements. But Maureen Stewart, the vice-chairperson of Save the Vaal (Save) is sceptical. She says there is no political will to tackle the crisis. “These problems go back over 12 yearsand reached crisis proportions when the system collapsed in 2018. The result is some 200 million litres of raw or partially treated sewage entering the Vaal River and its tributaries daily.” Stewart warns that it’s an ecological disaster that also affects agriculture and has serious health implications for people living above and below the Vaal Barrage Reservoir, which is 64km long and used to supply Johannesburg with water but is now too polluted to do so.   She says the Emfuleni municipality has been under Gauteng’s administration since mid-2018 and, despite promises, the status quo remains — unbridled sewage pollution of the Vaal River and Emfuleni.  “The Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (Erwat) was appointed to take over in 2019 and were given funding and spent R179-million. Their contribution was to unblock pipes and remove 50 tons of rubbish from the system. This opened the pipes but, as the pump stations and the three wastewater treatment plants remain dysfunctional, there has been no improvement. Raw sewage continues to flow into the Vaal River and into the streets of Emfuleni.”  Monica Ndakisa sweeps overspill from her toilet. There was a “glimmer of hope” when Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, visited the Vaal in January this year, assuring Save that action will be taken and that funds are earmarked in the 2020-2021 budget.  “It seems her enthusiasm has not filtered down to her department,” says Stewart. “After Erwat’s contract was not renewed, the department stated they would undertake the repairs by appointing their own contractors. Tender documents have been languishing on someone’s desk at the department since July.” Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for the department, says the government has committed resources towards solving the sewage problem in the Vaal.  “Government sent state institutions to assist Emfuleni local municipality (ELM) in this regard; these include SANDF and Erwat. Recently, the department finalised the scope of all that needs to be done to solve the sewage problem. There are 26 work packages that will be advertised in the coming weeks for competent contractors to take part in solving the sewage challenge in the Vaal.”  The department, says Ratau, aims to have a “busy festive season” working with the appointed contractors. “In the 2020/21 financial year, the department has committed R911-million towards solving this challenge. The total investment by the department in 2020/21 financial year is R1.2-billion in the Vaal; this includes the building of additional wastewater treatment capacity and associated pump stations.” Maphelo Apleni installs pipes to drain sewage out of his garden. Before the end of the financial year Module 6 in Sebokeng water care works will be launched, “subject to no community unrest disrupting construction”. The department, Ratau says, has to take all necessary precautions to ensure that section 217 of the constitution is followed as far as procurement is concerned.  “Thus the departmental checks and balances had to be followed to the letter to ensure compliance with procurement processes. This unfortunately caused delays but was necessary.” Within the next month the department aims to advertise for all the contractors “that can assist in this challenge”. Ratau says commitment dates, including start and completion dates, “will be sent not only to Save but all interested stakeholders once the contractors are appointed. The department cannot preempt this before the appointments are made.” He says that R7-billion is required to “solve the pollution challenge in ELM. This needs to be coupled with operations and maintenance, which is a function of ELM at local government level”. Save is once again taking the government to court to enforce legislation to ensure infrastructure is repaired within phased completion dates and that sufficient funds are made available for ongoing maintenance and operation of the system by the municipality, supervised by the high court.   Veja’s Mokoena is glad the department is taking over the Vaal clean-up. “This situation was supposed to be fixed a long time ago. So much money has been squandered at the municipal level.” Rand Water’s delay Eight months. That’s how long it took Rand Water to release public water quality records for the Vaal Barrage system to a team of aquatic specialists investigating the ecological health of the river system.  In January, Aquatic Ecosystems of Africa submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application to Rand Water for access to its water quality analysis data for the Vaal Barrage and downstream since 2015.  Nothing happened, it says, until Tshepang Sebulela, the Paia compliance officer from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) intervened late last month.  New pipelines are being installed in the Vaal. In an email to Rand Water, Sebulela noted how the multiple requests for records by Aquatic Ecosystems and the Federation for a Sustainable Environment have allegedly been ignored, which in terms of Paia are deemed refusals.  “The SAHRC is greatly concerned by a large number of public institutions who provide such important services to the public who refuse to meet their basic legislative obligations,” he wrote. The records landed in the firm’s inbox on 2 October.  Aquatic Systems’ Simone Liefferink says sourcing surface water system data is becoming increasingly difficult. “It’s disturbing the data is not adequately managed, readily accessible to the public and private sectors who pay tax and other water charges for effective catchment management to be implemented.”  Rand Water did not explain the reason behind the delay.  That the information was provided in a PDF format of almost 2 000 pages “frustrates and delays” its interpretation, says Liefferink.  She and her partner, Russell Tate, began their investigation after a major fish kill in the Vaal River in mid-2018. That September they testified at the HRC’s inquiry into the contamination of the Vaal River that high levels of ammonia from the wastewater treatment works was wiping out life in the river system. A snap-shot analysis of the data provided by Rand Water shows high levels of E coli, ammonium and ammonia — key indicators of sewage pollution. Average E coli counts soared from 12 705 colony-forming units per 100ml in 2010 to more than 107 000 in 2018 and 66 923 in 2020.  “The contributing factor is clear — dysfunctional sewage treatment conveyances and treatment plants. More disturbing is the long-standing deterioration of the system that ever increases the loss of biodiversity and other essential ecological functions and human services. Yet this matter is still not treated with extreme urgency,” says Liefferink. HRC’s long-awaited report It’s taken nearly two years for the Human Rights Commission to release its report into the Emfuleni sewage crisis. “Their report has not yet been taken to parliament, nor has it been published. Why?” asks Save’s Stewart. Buang Jones, the Gauteng manager of the HRC, says the provincial report has been finalised.  “It’s with the commissioners now for final adoption and approval. Once it’s been approved, it will be shared with implicated parties and they’ll have 10 days to comment. This is a countrywide issue and the report seeks to address broader challenges when it comes to river pollution and wastewater management,” he says.  Read the original article here.

POLLUTION OF THE VAAL RIVER INTERVENTION AS PRESENTED at Rietspruit Forum - Aug 2020

The Intervention document is attached for download....

Development of the National Eutrophication Strategy and Supporting Documents

Attached documents:1. DWS Eutrophication SA & GA PSC 1 BID2. PSC 1 Meeting A...