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Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, a influential organisation in the mining sector. Liefferink speaks on Classic FM about Acid Mine Drainage. 

To listen, visit this link: http://www.classicfm.co.za/classic-lifestyle/podcasts/2016/january/19-january-2016/acid-mine-drainage/view

 

Monday, 28 December 2015 09:22

Feedback in pictures

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment co-hosted the recent Nuclearisation of Africa Conference.  The event brought together experts and interested parties on matters relating to nuclear energy, waste and mining of radio-active material. 

Prof. Nidecker of Radiology, University of Basel, Switzerland. Past president and board member of PSR / IPPNW Switzerland is interviewed along with independent international consultant on energy and nuclear policy releases, Co-author of yearly world Nuclear Industry Status Report, Mycle Schneider.  In this podcast they highlight topics and insights from the Symposium, "Nuclearisation of Africa". 

Federation For a Sustainable Environment « Nuclearisation of Africa » Symposium 19. Nov 2015 There is a clear global downtrend in the civil use of nuclear power, as documented by the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report and as discussed at the international Symposium on « Nuclearisation of Africa » concluded on the 19th of November in Johannesburg.

Sheree Bega, a multi award winning journalist, of Saturday Star, South Africa’s leading weekend paper, wrote an excellent article titled “Nuclear waste ‘dangerous for millennia, even millions of years, cannot be shut off”.  The article was published yesterday in the Saturday Star.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Water Situation in South Africa 

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Department of Water and Sanitation's existing treatment programme involving pumping acid mine drainage out of the Witwatersrand basin and then partially treating the water by neutralising it will not assist in alleviating the challenge in the long term, says the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) CEO Mariette Liefferink.

Saturday, 19 September 2015 08:01

Expections of mining in protected areas

A coalition of civil society and community organisations, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), has instituted legal action in the Pretoria High Court against the Minister of Mineral Resources, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, following his grant of a coal mining right to Atha-Africa Ventures (AAV) inside the sensitive Mabola Protected Environment.

Friday, 04 September 2015 07:46

Nuclearisation of Africa - a symposium

A symposium in Johannesburg from 16 to 19 November will address the nuclearisation of Africa.  The 4-day event will focus on Uranium mining and health, environmental, legal and socio-economic issues.  In addition one entire day will be devoted to to renewable energies.

Saturday, 22 August 2015 15:55

Nuclearisation of Africa

Uranium mining can have detrimental effects on the health of the miners and their families. An interdisciplinary team of doctors and scientists will report on this and on efforts of the nuclear industry to promote the civilian use of nuclear power in Africa at a Symposium in Johannesburg, South Africa from 16th to 19th November 2015.

MINING

Tours of West Rand gold fields

The FSE conducts regular tours with interested and affected parties, of the West Rand gold fields and Sibanye Gold’s operations. 

Mine Shafts: Accidents waiting to happen

  Eighty-two shafts without warning signs.  Twenty-two open shafts.  Three wate...

Residents left in the dark over AMD treatment

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has been accused of “authorising po...

SA NEWS

LLM/MPhil in Environmental Law Programme launched

  The Department of Public Law at the University of Pretoria hosted a launch of its LLM and MPhil programmes in Environmental Law, coordinated by Ms Melanie Murcott, Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Administrative Law, in February 2017.

Water Show

The FSE will be presenting at a keynote panel discussion at "The Water Show Africa" on the 29th of March.

Lauded for research on SA acid mine drainage

The launch of Acid mine drainage in South Africa: Development actors, policy impacts and broader implications, by Suvania Naidoo, took place on 10 February 2017. The book has proven to be a timely publication because of the incipient water crisis in South Africa. The event was hosted by Unisa’s Department of Development Studies in the College of Human Sciences. The guests were welcomed by the chair of the department, Prof Gretchen du Plessis, who expressed that “development studies is an ever-changing discipline and is a space where different issues converge”. She further stated that the book fills a void in our knowledge about acid mine drainage (AMD) and that the publication is “an example of hard work which results in big achievements”.

Truth of the dust that brings death

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

WATER

Eastern Basin acid water plant is "sledgehammer"

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has used a "sledgehammer" for its R1bn treatment plant for acid mine drainage (AMD) on the Eastern mining basin that could ultimately create more toxic water.  This is the view of water strategy and consulting mining hydrologist Kym Morton, who believes government is "wasting money" by pumping large volumes of water and adding lime that makes it alkaline but still toxic and hazardous. 

SABC Health Talk, Environmental Health: 25 February 2017

Focus on preventing illness rather than incurring the expense of treatment....

Rand Water tightens the taps in Gauteng

In the Midvaal suburb where Sipho Mosai lives, the gardens are lush and green be...