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FSE COMMENTS - NATIONAL GUIDELINE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS PREPARING EIA FOR MINING ACTIVITIES

Monday, 12 March 2018 07:33
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COMMENTS ON NATIONAL GUIDELINE ON MINIMUM INFORMATION REQUIREMENTS FOR PREPARING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENTS FOR MINING ACTIVITIES THAT REQUIRE ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHORISATION

 

The following comments are submitted on behalf of the Federation for Sustainable Environment (FSE) The FSE is a federation of community based civil society organisations committed to the realisation of the constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, and to having the environment sustainably managed and protected for future generations. Their mission is specifically focussed on addressing the adverse impacts of mining and industrial activities on the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities who live and work near South Africa’s mines and industries.

The FSE is a member of a significant number of governmental and academic forums, steering committees, task teams and teams of experts and its directors have two decades of experience with mining applications and environmental impact assessment processes.

Requirements for Assessing Impacts

In the current system the public is usually, when confronted by an application, taken by surprise. A meeting is convened by the applicant and the public has to face a range of specialists, specialising in inter alia fauna and flora, geohydrology, aquatic biota, hydrology, groundwater, soil, air quality, geology, etc. supporting the applicant and being paid for by the applicant.   Their objective is not only to fulfil their roles as specialists, but also ensure that the application is successful.  

The playing field is not level. The public has no confidence in the process.  It results in confrontation and escalation of conflict. This is a normal human response. By addressing the process, giving all in the process confidence in the fairness of the process and making it easier for the decision maker to adjudicate applications, we believe that the EIA process will be enhanced and made much more efficient if the “playing field is levelled.”

As stated above currently all of the power lies with the Applicant. The Applicant pays for the consultants and the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP), whilst the public lacks knowledge of specialised areas of investigation, the ability or capacity to employ specialists and thus the ability to consult in a meaningful manner. In essence, the decision maker receives one informed side of the argument and one uninformed side of the opinion. It is our submission that in order to ensure a meaningful consultation process the levelling of the playing field should be engineered.

Consultation can best be described as the reciprocal and meaningful exchange/communication of ideas and opinions based on sufficient information and sufficient time. There must be a reasonable opportunity to exchange the ideas and opinions, and not a mere opportunity to make ineffective contributions.

Specialists are furthermore afraid of retribution from applicants and industries if they do not come to the conclusions that are in their clients’ favour. There are cases of “black listing” by certain applicants of specialists that have cooperated with us in the past.

The cost of review applications and appeals are in most instances prohibitive for most communities since expert legal and subject advice have to be obtained to make effective representations.

The following proposals are put forward:

  1. It is proposed that in applications with significant potential impact and where the specific activity is deemed inappropriate for that geographical area (e.g. in protected areas, areas of highest and high biodiversity importance):
    1. The applicant must provide a specialist/EAP for the public to enable them to have confidence in the process. Knowledge capacitates and empowers the public.
    2. The appointed EAPs must be paid for by a body other than the applicant but with the funds of the applicant. The money and the opinion must be divorced.
  2. The specialist/EAP will then also provide a detailed assessment, based on the information gathered by the applicant, to the decision maker. This will constitute a peer review of the information and will assist the decision maker in his/her decision.
  3. The decision maker will then have two opinions, which may converge or diverge, before him/her and will be in the position to ground his/her decision on more than just the opinion of the applicant’s specialists, which is the considered opinion of only one side of the argument.
  4. Mediation must take place where EAPs are of a different point of view. This must however be a short and inexpensive process.
  5. The independence/professionalism of EAPs and specialists must be strengthened and they must be able to state their minds without fear of retribution from the specific applicant or industry. A method has to be found whereby EAPs and specialists will be appointed based on their willingness to do the work and by a process other than appointment and remuneration by the applicant. This is to ensure that the relationship between applicant and specialist stay at arm’s length and affords the specialist the opportunity to come to conclusions without fear of retribution from a specific applicant or industry. This can be done by means of:
    1. A method of appointment via rotational basis from a pool; and/or
    2. By selection from both the public and the applicant;
    3. Or any other method than the current where the specialist and EAPs are dependent on business from the same industries they are acting on behalf of. This is not unprecedented in the country today hence it will not be difficult or impossible to implement such a system. To exemplify: The labour court’s arbitration system whereby a panel is appointed independently, paid for by the party and the arbitrator can deliver its verdict without fearing retribution in the future from the aggrieved party.

By implementing the above it is our submission that the confrontational nature of the EIA system will be neutralised. The public will have confidence that an independent specialist will assist them; that the EAPs are independently paid for and will be neutral and state their ture opinion without fear; disagreements will be addressed early in the process by means of mediation and the decision maker will have two opinions available to guide him/her in his/her decision.  It will then be very difficult for any party to go on appeal or review on the substantive facts in any matter and this will eliminate the most cumbersome and difficult part of the EIA process.

Monitoring of Impact Management Actions

While the recommended management actions and monitoring programmes in an EIA may result in the mitigation of significant impacts, the systemic failure by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), the DEA, the DWS and local authorities (where it overlaps with the mandates of the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Water and Sanitation and local authorities) to ensure that mitigation and management measures are adequately implemented and non-compliances are enforced, has resulted in the degradation of land, soil, surface and groundwater.

Audits exist in vain if it is not followed by enforcement (e.g. pre-directives, directives, criminal prosecution, suspension or withdrawal of mining rights/permits).

Monitoring programmes must translate in the implementation of management or mitigation measures. Monitoring results showing non-compliances and contamination and alteration of surface water courses, tailings spillages, soil and groundwater contamination, land degradation, elevated levels of dust fallout, erosion, etc. are of no value unless it is acted upon and the impacts remediated or mitigated.

The sampling programmes employed by the mining industry and Government to monitor pollution are often inadequate. To exemplify:  In view of frequently drastic short-term fluctuations of pollution levels caused by day-night rhythms of discharging mine effluents, natural diurnal fluctuations of water chemistry as well as events such as rainstorms and spillages monthly or weekly sampling intervals are inadequate. This is illustrated by the fact that uranium-levels in samples used in IWQS (1999) from identical sites (normally sampled at the same day of the week and the more or less the same time of the day) at some locations fluctuate by up to an factor of 1000 (i.e. 100000%).  It is furthermore of concern that because of budget considerations, only a few variables are sampled notwithstanding the fact that mine effluent and waste contain a broad spectrum of metals in elevated concentrations.

(Reference: F Winde. Development of a map ranking sites with known radioactive pollution in the Wonderfonteinspruit catchment according to the urgency of required intervention. Underlying methodology and results. Wonderfonteinspruit Catchment Area:  Remediation Action Plan.  2009.)

Impact Identification and Assessment

The prescribed time frame to conduct the EIA is resulting in accelerated EIAs which compromises the assessment of ecosystem goods, flora and fauna, biodiversity and hydrology. The influence of seasonality on detection of flora and fauna, and evaluation of biodiversity, is well recognised worldwide.  For example, within the Grassland Biome, most plant species and small fauna experience seasonal dormancy, whereas some avian species are migratory.  At worst, if not conducted in appropriate seasons and for biologically relevant time periods, the EIA could under-represent biodiversity by almost 95%.  Assessment of hydrology requires a full hydrological cycle.  Ecosystem goods and services could be similarly compromised by the accelerated EIA.  A preliminary conservative estimate of the value of ecosystem services in South African grasslands is SAR9.7 billion per annum (2006 statistics).  With respect to social aspects, rural and urban livelihoods of the poor in South Africa are highly dependent on ecosystem goods, and potential impacts on community resource bases can hardly be assessed with such short time periods.

Furthermore in the impact identification and assessment, an equal weight ought to be given to imported scientific knowledge and local and traditional knowledge.  Please see section 2 (4) (g) of the NEMA.

Conceptual Closure Planning

Closure plans and future land use options must ensure that current rehabilitation practices are not short-sighted or incompatible with end land-uses and municipal development plans. Residential townships, edible crop production and livestock grazing are high risk land uses for tailings storage facilities (TSFs), TSF footprints and areas within the aqueous or aerial zone of influence of TSFs and metallurgical plants in South Africa.  Failure to implement suitable ‘soft’ end land-uses and buffer zones could exacerbate liabilities for closing mines and/or the State by resulting in subsequent land-uses that are sub-economic or risky.

In order to adequately address residual and latent impacts and liabilities and to determine the financial provision[1], it is recommended that mining operations in South Africa adopt the precautionary approach.

Within the gold mining industry e.g. there is:

  • The near certainty of contaminated water, which will require some form of decontamination treatment, decanting from closed underground mines, or from lower-lying interconnected neighbouring mines;
  • The near certainty of sulphate, chloride, metal and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) and Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) contamination of soils and sediments by seepage from unlined tailings storage facilities (TSFs), tailings spillages and plant discharges, and the potential for contamination of downstream /downwind soils and sediments;
  • The near certainty of sulphate, chloride, metal, NORMS and TENORMs contamination of surface water bodies and their sediments and ground water by seepage from unlined TSFs, tailings spillages, plant discharges and underground workings. In addition the potential contamination of surface soils overlying shallow polluted groundwater via evaporative pathways during dry seasons;
  • The potential for salt, sulphate, chloride, metal, NORMs and TENORMs contamination of crop soils irrigated with contaminated surface water or contaminated groundwater;
  • The concomitant loss of genetic/biodiversity and potentially ecosystem goods and services on disturbed, fragmented or polluted properties;
  • The potential for bioaccumulation of some metals, NORMs and TENORMs by flora and fauna;
  • The potential for exposure of fauna and humans to bio-accumulated pollutants;
  • The potential for acute and latent toxicity impacts of bio-accumulated pollutants on humans and the potential for radioactivity impacts from NORMs and TENORMs on humans;
  • The potential for human disease as a result of exposure to wind-blown dust from TSFs;
  • The potential for structural damage to buildings and other structures, and human injfyr by mining exacerbated seismicity.

Restoration and rehabilitation are dynamic processes that span long periods of time. However, some degradation associated with mining is irreversible from an ecological perspective. This possibility that some damage may be irreversible and hence require long-term site containment and financial provision, and/or compensation, and/or the replacement of land to affected parties ought to be assessed and included in the closure plan.

(Reference: MW Sutton, IM Weiersbye. South African Legislation Pertinent to Gold Mine Closure and Residual Risk.   Mine Closure 2007 – A.Fourie, M. Tibbett and J. Wiertz (eds).  2007 Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, ISBN 978-0-9804185-0-7.)

Need and Desirability

We recommend that a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis be conducted as part of the need and desirability of a mining project to determine the best practicable environmental option. The analysis should include medium/long term costs and impacts, intra- and inter-generational equity and not only short term socio-economic benefits.

While economic benefits may flow to communities during the life time of a mine, future generations may well have their livelihood opportunities and their quality of life reduced by the future post-closure land use because polluted water and soil, profound or irreversible impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity. These unintended outcomes worsen poverty. 

The cost associated with the rehabilitation of mining operations after decommissioning, including the cost to human and environmental health and the social legacy of people employed, supported and attracted to the mine and its surrounding areas must be factored in in the an cost/benefit analysis. It should be recognised that environmental impacts of mining are cumulative and typically require several decades to take effect. 

A comprehensive cost/benefit analysis is of particular importance if mining is applied for in a sensitive area. The balancing of the negative environmental impacts versus the alleged short term social benefits (which have not accrued in the last period of mining to the local communities) and the economic advantages can only be assessed if the loss to the environment are evaluated.

Environmental Instruments and Tools

EIAs frequently fail to adequately incorporate and address the following decision making instruments:

Mining and Biodiversity Guideline

While EIAs may refer to the Mining and Biodiversity Guideline, the recommendations are not always followed. Mining is prohibited in legally protected areas.  For areas of highest biodiversity the Guideline recommend that “an EIA should include the strategic assessment of optimum, sustainable land use for a particular area and will determine the significance of the impact on biodiversity. This assessment should fully take into account the environmental sensitivity of the area, the overall environmental and socio-economic costs and benefits of mining as well as the potential strategic importance of the minerals to the country.”

The Guideline states that the EIA “needs to identify whether mining is the optimal land use, whether it is in the national interest for that deposit to the mined in that area and whether the significance of unavoidable impacts on biodiversity are justified. It is important that a risk averse and cautious approach is adopted. This implies strongly avoiding these biodiversity priority areas, given the importance of the receiving environment and the probability that the proposed activity would have significant negative impacts”.

When considering mining these biodiversity priority areas, the Guideline prescribes a set of filters that should be sequentially applied and "mining should only be considered if:

  1. It can be clearly shown that the biodiversity priority area coincides with mineral or petroleum reserves that are strategically in the national interest to exploit.
  2. There are no alternative deposits or reserves that could be exploited in areas that are not biodiversity priority areas or less environmentally sensitive areas.
  3. It can be demonstrated that they are spatial options in the landscape that could provide substitute areas of the same habitat conservation, to ensure that biodiversity targets would be met.
  4. A full economic evaluation of mining compared with other reasonable/feasible alternative land uses, undertaken as a necessary component of the EIA, shows that mining would be the optimum sustainable land use in the proposed area.
  5. A detailed assessment and evaluation of the potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of mining on biodiversity and ecosystem services shows that there would be no irreplaceable loss or irreversible deterioration, and that minimising, rehabilitating, and offsetting or fully compensating for probable residual impacts would be feasible and assured, taking into account associated risks and time lags.
  6. A risk averse and cautious approach, taking into account the limits of current knowledge about the consequences of decisions and actions, can be demonstrated both in the assessment and evaluation of environmental impacts, and in the design of proposed mitigation and management measures.

The Guideline states further that

“The above filters should form the basis for deciding on whether or not, and how and where, to permit mining. This means that based on the significance of the impact, some authorisations may well not be granted. If granted, authorisation may set limits on allowed activities and impacts, and may specify biodiversity offsets that would be written into licence agreements and/or authorisations”.                                                                                                                                                                                          

The EIA ought to be compiled so as to give effect to the Guideline.

The fact is that certain metals and minerals such as coal, sand, fluorspar, platinum is plentiful in South Africa, it is overproduced and the sensitive environment is neither of the aforesaid. It is not possible to make an informed decision due to lack of information dealing specifically with the matters raised in the Mining Biodiversity Guideline.

This includes an assessment of the opportunity costs, e.g.

o Understanding the value of the foregone opportunity;

o The achievement of the desired aim/goal for the specific area;

o Optimising of positive impacts;

o Minimising of negative impacts;

o Equitable distribution of impacts; and

o The maintenance of ecological integrity and environmental quality.

The Guideline recommends that the authorisation for mining in highest biodiversity important areas may specify biodiversity offsets that would be written into licence agreements and/or authorisations.

For areas of high biodiversity importance, the EIA should include an assessment of optimum, sustainable land use for a particular area and will determine the significance of the impact on biodiversity according to the Mining and Biodiversity Guideline.

MPRDA section 48 and Section 48 of NEMPAA

In terms of section 48 of the MPRDA it gives a list wherein no mining can take place and is further qualified by two important factors 1) subject to the permission given by the Minister for Mineral Resources and 2) subject to section 48 of the NEMPAA (protected areas act).

The list in the MPRDA is as follows:

-           Land comprising a residential area;

-           Any public road, railway, cemetery;

-           Any land being used for public or government purpose or reserved in terms of any other law (this is important as we read this since it excludes NEMPAA due to the fact that it specially mentioned in the section 48(1) – further explanation will be given below); or

-           Areas identified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette in terms of section 49.

NEMPAA section 48:

Section 48 of NEMPAA pertains to mining activities specifically. Section 48 also gives a list of when a mining activity is not allowed to be undertaken. In terms of the main body what is important to note is that section 48 states the following words, “despite other legislation” (this qualifies section 48 of the MPRDA) no person may conduct commercial prospecting…”

The list in NEMPAA is as follows:

-           In a special nature reserve, national park, or nature reserve;

-           In a protected environment without the written permission of the minister and the cabinet member responsible for mining and energy affairs; or

-           In a protected area referred to in section 9(b), (c) or (d). 

It is important at this juncture that we look at the first listed prohibition. i.e. “in special nature reserve, national park or nature reserve.

In terms of this first prohibition – special nature reserve, national park or nature reserve (as declared by the NEMPAA or other acts) cannot be mined on AND there is no qualification to allow the mine to ask for permission.

Case law (please note this is not a close list):

Barberton Mine Case – SCA – http://wessalowveld.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/BARBERTON-MINES-CASE-JUDGEMENT.pdf

NEMPAA binds all organs of states (s4(2)) and trumps other legislation in the event of a conflict concerning the management or development of protected areas (s7(1)(a)).

In terms of section 12 – a protected area that was reserved or protected in terms of provincial legislation is entitled to be regarded as a nature reserve or protected environment for the purposes of NEMPAA.

National Biodiversity Offset Policy

Notwithstanding the publishing of the Policy, the use of offsets has frequently been inadequate to deliver intended biodiversity outcomes. Challenges include:

  • insufficient capacity to evaluate, design and implement offsets;
  • inconsistent decision-making;
  • problems establishing sustainable financing mechanisms; and
  • inadequate enforcement and monitoring, linked to poor drafting of licencing conditions and/or insufficient capacity to monitor implementation.

Sense of Place

We furthermore recommend the consideration of the guideline on “Sense of Place” since it is part our law that the potential impact of a development on the sense of place of an area must be considered. In the case of Director: Mineral Development Gauteng Region and another v. Save the Vaal Environment and others 1999 (2) SA 709 (SCA) at 715C, the Supreme Court of Appeals with regard to a proposed mine on a wetland next to the Vaal River, identified as an environmental concern the “…predicted constant noise, light, dust and water pollution resulting from the proposed strip mine will totally destroy the ‘sense of place; of the wetland and the associated Cloudy Creek. Thus the spiritual aesthetic and therapeutic qualities associated with this area will also be eliminated.”

This finding by the court established sense of place, as an environmental concern that can be impacted upon by the development of a mine and that should be considered accordingly.

 

Lack of decisive language

 

In terms of Section 24O(1)(b)(viii) of NEMA, it is the responsibility of the competent authority to take into consideration all of the “guidelines, departmental policies, and environmental management instruments that have been adopted” when an environmental authorisation is required for mining activities[2]. Full consideration of all the criteria informs good decision making, and stimulates mining activities that adhere to national socio-economic and environmental objectives.

 

The 2014 EIA Regulations, Section 18, reinforces the necessity of inclusion of the related guiding material, such as; minimum information requirements, protocol and Regulations which are relevant to the application[3].  These instruments are essential for accountability and sustainability within the mining sector.

 

Furthermore, the stringency of terminology for the proposed national guideline is fundamental to the sequencing of environmental authorisation. As the applications have previously been complicated and lengthy, clarity is needed not only in procedure, but also in the letter of the law to ensure efficiency and compliance.

 

  1. The terminology used throughout the National Guidelines is often framed as suggestive rather than authoritative. The objective of the National Guideline is to provide clarity for the best practice for granting an EIA, in order to do so; the terminology must be precise and unambiguous.
  2. Section 24O(1) of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 requires “all relevant factors” to be taken into account when consideration is given to an application for environmental authorisation. Section 24O(1)(b)(viii) of NEMA states that these factors may include ‘guidelines, departmental policies, and environmental management instruments that have been adopted’. The obligatory requirements attached to section 24O are indicative of the necessity of guidelines to be taken into account when environmental authorisation is required for mining activities.
  3. If the guidelines upon which decision makers are to take into account are merely subjective it defeats the purpose of creating a document that seeks to streamline the EIA process, and provide uniform guidance to the competent authorities.
  4. The 2014 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (“EIA Regulations”) gives further guidance to the criteria to be taken into account by competent authorities when considering applications. Section 18 of the EIA Regulations states:

‘When considering an application the competent authority must have regard to section 240 and 24(4) of the Act, the need for and desirability of the undertaking of the proposed activity, any guideline published in terms of section 24J of the Act and any minimum information requirements for the application.’

 

  1. Similarly to NEMA, the EIA Regulations make it clear that there are certain minimum requirements that need to be considered when granting authorization.
  2.  
  3. Critiques of the 2014 amendments to legislation, regarding Environmental Authorisation for EIA’s have systematically alluded to ambiguity of operational procedures and systems in the One Environmental System.[4] The proposed national guideline has the opportunity to offer clarity and facilitate more informed, ecologically responsible EIAs.
  4.  
  5. The stringency of terminology for the proposed national guideline is fundamental to the sequencing of environmental authorisation. As the applications have previously been complicated and lengthy, clarity is needed not only in procedure, but also in letter of the law to ensure efficiency and compliance.
  6.  
  7. Full consideration of all the criteria informs good decision making, and stimulates mining activities that adhere to national socio-economic and environmental objectives.
  8.  
  9. Conclusion on terminology that is imprecise - In total there are 65 incidents of vague terminology identified herein which have the potential to be subjectively interpreted. As this document is proposed as best practice guidance for activities which are inherently high impact, stringent guidelines are essential.

Open Source Access to EIA Information

  1. To fully exercise civil rights and interact in a meaningful way with activities effecting a community’s environment, convenient and reasonable access to EIA information is needed.[5]
  2. The Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (“PAIA”) operates within the framework of the Constitution, that citizens have the right to access to information that has a bearing on their environment.[6] There is an undeniable need to enforce this right and promote access to information which enables transparency. The PAIA is intended to encourage public access to information in a manner that is simple and convenient.
  3. Information is currently published through gazetting, national and/or regional newspapers and leaves a large part of the population without reasonable access.
  4. Public participation is only as fruitful as the information held by each attending party. An I&AP, as an individual or group who is willing to actively participate in stakeholder engagement would be better informed and able to act more decisively. This can potentially expedite the process of public participation, making the forecasting of risks and impacts more thorough.
  5. Information is fundamental to the ability to exercise ones’ constitutional rights in a healthy democracy. Enabling online instant public access is the medium for mobilising that right. Mining activities have been historically plagued with a lack of accountability and environmental degradation, which are predominantly borne by poor and marginalised communities.
  6. By facilitating online access to EIA information, there is an opportunity for citizen empowerment and a greater ability for the mining sector to manage and mitigate the impact of their activities. More information can foster greater management and adaptation measures for all stakeholders.

                                                               

                                                                                                                        

SUBMITTED BY:

Mariette Liefferink.

CEO:  FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT.

11 March 2018.

 

[1] We take cognisance of the fact that the MIR does not currently provide guidance on financial provision.

[2] Sec 24O(1)(b)(viii) of NEMA

[3] Sec 18 EIA Regulations of 2014

[4]Government’s One Environmental System (9 December 2014) available at: https://www.environment.gov.za/mediarelease/oneenvironmentalsystem accessed on 6 March 2018.

[5] NEMA at section 23(2)(d).

[6] PAIA at section 70 (a)(ii).

 

 

The Document may be opened as a PDF document.

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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. 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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. 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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." 

Changing the narrative: The women who inspired the City Press team

City Press Reporters | 2019-08-09 05:00 Image source: Stock/Gallo images   As part of our jobs, journalists meet all sorts of people, from celebrities to politicians. Often, we walk away feeling dejected and despondent. But sometimes, the people we interview leave us feeling invigorated and inspired. These are some of them: Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, small business minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni at her swearing in as an MP by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Picture: Cebile Ntuli Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, South Africa’s small business minister, once tried to persuade Nelson Mandela to get the ANC to negotiate that 16 be the voting age. She was 14 at the time. It was the 1990s, during the heady days of the Convention for a Democratic SA. President Cyril Ramaphosa was present during the interaction. The interaction with Madiba planted the seeds of “focus and determination” in Ntshavheni, who says these are the same character traits that, years later, defined the role she played as municipal manager of Ba-Phalaborwa Local Municipality in Limpopo – in particular, the lesson that “age, gender and race have no bearing on my ability to achieve my set targets despite the obstacles”. At age 42, Ntshavheni is one of the youngest ministers in the new Cabinet. One of her most pressing tasks is to ask Parliament to amend the Small Business Act to better deal with current issues facing the sector. This will entail updating the act to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access funding from state agencies and the banking sector, and to ensure that small businesses are paid within the prescribed 21 days. She says big business, too, ought to assist in creating access to markets for small traders and, as a measure of last resort, “if we need to set quotas, it should be so”. Ntshavheni believes that if small businesses are able to survive the first five years of being established and could grow to medium-sized businesses, job creation would boom. “To achieve this, we need to remove the red tape, improve their cash flow through paying them on time, help them access markets for their products, and upskill them for proper financial management.” Sufficient groundwork has been done, she says, and now it is time for implementation. – Setumo Stone Read: New minister knows all about small business Barbara Creecy, minister of forestry, fisheries and environmental affairs Barbara Creecy. Picture: The Daily Sun Barbara Creecy is the first to admit that she inherited a department that is in good shape. But she is in no doubt of the importance of her new job. SA’s latest minister of environment, forestry and fisheries took over the old environmental affairs department earlier this year, with two new entities having been added to its functions: forestry and fisheries. These previously fell under the department of agriculture. Creecy says: “Some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, fall under this portfolio. President Cyril Ramaphosa is committed to creating jobs and fighting poverty, and this portfolio will play a big role as it is responsible for the sustainability, conservation and management of our natural resources.” Creecy reiterates her intention to gain a deeper understanding of the departments in her ministry. “There has been a lot of focus on the ocean economy. This is not just to do with fishing but also with the fact that South Africa has a 2 500km coastline, which calls into question what our role is with regard to shipping.” She says forestry is a big commercial activity that can contribute immensely to economic growth and jobs, particularly in the neighbouring province of Mpumalanga and elsewhere in the country. She says that while she is trying to learn fast so she can hit the ground running, she is also “fortunate, because even if I have never been at national government before, I have served at executive level in the provincial government for 15 years”. “I have had three diverse portfolios – in sports, education and finance. What that has taught me to do is ask: ‘How do I enter into a leadership space and quickly understand what the issues are, and how do I then look at starting to add value?’” – Setumo Stone Read: Barbara Creecy will build on work of predecessors as she inherits department in ‘good shape’ Pemmy Majodina, chief whip ANC new Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina. Picture: Misheck Makora ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina has made a name for herself among fashion watchers with her love of sheer, loud-coloured fabrics and big, brim-feathered hats. But her presence was impressive enough for the ANC’s national executive committee, which resolved that she would take up the top job of chief whip. Majodina grew up as an orphan, is a “ruralitarian” from Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, a preacher in the Methodist church, and mother to a young man named Mkhonto weSizwe, a name born out of a need to preserve history and also an ode to the “glorious army” she served in. In her first address to the media alongside ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, Majodina boldly proclaimed that the new parliamentary caucus would not be “lame ducks”. The chief whip said she was making reference to the need for the ANC to revisit its understanding of its role of oversight in Parliament. “As members of the ANC we must understand that we have a judiciary with a clear mandate, we have an executive with a clear mandate and a legislature with a clear mandate. If you can internalise that then you will know your role as the legislature. “In the previous terms the ANC has been accused of asking darling questions and that we don’t hold the executive to account, and so on. The Constitution is very clear: there is a separation of powers. We as the legislature have a mandate to play an oversight role over the executive.” The fifth Parliament was a tumultuous one, with it standing accused of failing in holding to account former president Jacob Zuma. While emphasising the need for natural justice to be observed, Majodina is adamant that ANC members who serve in the executive and are found to be involved in wrongdoing will find no refuge in Parliament. “If a matter comes to Parliament it must come. There is no one higher than the law. If we swear in a member today and tomorrow there is a damning report that finds the member guilty, we are not going to be defending an individual. We are here to preserve the values of the ANC. Whoever is found to be on the wrong side of the law must face the music.” The chief whip will be making a comeback to Parliament, having served in the National Council of Provinces from 1999 to 2004 before making her way to the Eastern Cape government, where she was deployed in five different departments. She argues that this makes her no newcomer to the legislature. “My vision is to make ANC members in Parliament accountable to their constituencies first. We are going to play an oversight role by ensuring that every item committed to in the manifesto is implemented. “And if there is anything that cannot be done, it must be explained, because as we worked across the country, people were saying that when things change they are not informed.” – S’thembile Cele Read: New chief whip Pemmy Majodina plans to sebenza all the way Nompendulo Mkhatshwha, ANC member of Parliament Nompendulo Mkhatshwa pictured in 2016 when she was Wits SRC president. Picture: Thapelo Maphakel Well known for the iconic image showing her in an ANC doek, her fist in the air, which was shot at the height of the #FeesMustFall movement, activist Nompendulo Mkhatshwa (25) is now one of the 230 ANC MPs representing the party. Mkhatshwa rose to prominence in 2015, while studying for her BSc degree at Wits University. She was leader of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC). She has also worked part-time as a researcher at Luthuli House. Mkhatshwa was short-listed at number 101 on the ANC’s national list of individuals to head to Parliament. She represents the future of the ANC in all respects – a young woman and a gender activist who is driven by the plight of the youth and women. Mkhatshwa has risen through the ranks of the ruling party, however, she has clearly not forgotten her roots. In her maiden speech in Parliament in June, she highlighted the struggles of incarcerated #FeesMustFall activists. Using her platform as an MP, Mkhatshwa reminded society that a nation could not be built while others are left behind academically and economically. Mkhatshwa said while the protests by students in 2015 and 2016 have resulted in great strides in the higher education space, it was concerning that some activists were still behind bars for fighting for free tertiary education. – Juniour Khumalo Read: Who’s getting the House in order? Youngsters and oldies will share the benches in Parliament Naledi Chirwa, EFF MP Naledi Chirwa (EFF). Picture: Jaco Marais Student activist Naledi Chirwa (24) has rising in the ranks from serving as deputy president of the student representative council at Tshwane North College and fighting tirelessly to expose the debilitating circumstances of black people, black students and black women in the tertiary education space to now being counted among the EFF’s growing contingent in the National Assembly. Introduced to student politics in 2010, Chirwa rose to serve as the media and communications officer for the EFF Students Command. And has also been tireless in elevating the plight of jailed or student leaders facing criminal charges in to public discourse. In her maiden speech at the National Assembly in June, Chirwa further entrench her optimistic ideology that young people are not prepared to sit on the sidelines while decisions are being made about them. So powerful was Chirwa’s speech that even veteran parliamentarian Yunus Carrim asked: “What is this youth fundamentalism?” With youthful female leaders like Chirwa there is no doubt that young people, like generations before them, are making their mark for all to see.   – Juniour Khumalo Read: Who’s getting the House in order? Youngsters and oldies will share the benches in Parliament Yugen Blakrok, hip-hop musician Yugen Blakrok who is feature on the Black Panther soundtrack that was released two weeks ago. Picture: Supplied Yugen Blakrok hails from the Queenstown, Eastern Cape but her work has propelled her to France, from where she spoke to #Trending earlier this year. Last year her star elevated to the heights of Hollywood when she appeared on the acclaimed Black Panther soundtrack. She featured on a track called Opps with US rapper and west coast representative Vince Staples, as well as Kendrick Lamar, who produced the album. The experience for her was something she could not have imagined before. “By featuring on a release that big and completely foreign to me, I learnt many valuable lessons. Vince is a funny dude and a great artist, live as well. I thoroughly enjoyed performing with him when he was in South Africa.” The two shared a stage at Zone 6 Venue in Soweto when Vince toured here last year. The streets had mixed reactions to the performance as the sound was perhaps not at the level it should’ve been. Opps is a street term referring to opponents or opposition and features Kendrick Lamar doing his usual nonsense on the hook. Thankfully he makes way for the two emcees. She is adamant that locally produced art can thrive internationally and she hopes that would motivate the local industry to treat our artists better and increase the chances of lucrative gains. She is inspired by artists who have managed to shape their own lane in the arts, those who go against the grain, much like she does. “I’m not one of those rappers that started at an early age. I didn’t always know what I wanted to do after I finished school.” She first appeared on a mixtape in 2004 and only after that did the idea that she could do this professionally dawn on her. “Before then, I was just playing with words.” – Phumlani S Langa Read: Get to know Yugen Blakrok, empress of the underground Mokgadi Mabela, honey producer Mokgadi Mabela, founder of Native Nosi. (Image supplied) Within African traditional medicine, honey has been used since time immemorial for its physical healing abilities, as well as for its symbolic and spiritual significance. However, not all honey runs rich with the aforementioned therapeutic properties. Approximately 60% of the honey on South African supermarket shelves is imported and irradiated to a point where nutritional benefits are negligible. Mokgadi Mabela, a third-generation beekeeper, harvests and sells pure, raw honey from environmentally sustainable hives placed on farms and in rural communities across Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Last year, she sold almost two tons of her multiaward-winning local honey brand Native Nosi – most of it via her online shop. She attributes her success to the fact that “customers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it has been produced”. “I place the hives, inspect the hives and harvest the honey. I can guarantee that my honey hasn’t been tampered with and our bees were not fed artificial nutrients. I can tell you exactly where the honey in every pot I produce comes from, as well as the conditions in that particular place.” When it comes to honey, local really is lekker. Mokgadi explains that “the closer the honey was produced to the location of your specific home, the more antibodies that pertain to your specific circumstances it will contain. The bees will have fed on the flowers in your environment and those are the ones from which the pollen allergens that affect you come.” Native Nosi honey is not only healthy, it is also delicious and diverse. Mokgadi says “Nosi is the Sotho word for honey bee. To me, Native Nosi represents pure, natural unadulterated honey products produced locally and in harmony, and it also represents continuity with my past and present. My grandfather and my father were beekeepers before me, and I hope that Native Nosi reflects a respect for their skills and wisdom, and reveals a love connection in everything we do. “Historically, bees have been associated with ancestral communication and, in my case, that connection is very direct. I hope my grandfather would be pleased that, even though I didn’t meet him, he was sowing the seed for what I do. Generations along the line, he would recognise my passion and commitment. I only know my grandfather through the stories that others tell, but all of those show him to be a man worthy of respect. It pleases me to honour that image. I want to respect his legacy. I want to make him proud.” – Anna Trapido Read: How Mokgadi Mabela built award-winning local honey brand Native Nosi Mariette Liefferink, mining activist Activist Mariette Liefferink Johannesburg’s mines have contaminated virtually everything in the city – from the water, to the air, to the ground. While some communities live on radioactive land, others struggle with water laden with heavy metals. And nobody knows this more than environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, who features in the documentary Jozi Gold directed by South African writer, award-winning journalist, playwright and film maker Sylvia Vollenhoven and award-winning Swedish director and journalist Fredrik Gertten. Liefferink is the kind of subject film makers dream of. The documentary’s opening shot sees her traipsing around an excavated field in sky-high heels, dressed to a tee in black tights, an orange blazer and plenty of jewellery. A soft-spoken tannie with a clipped Afrikaans accent and coiffed blonde hair, she tells us later that she used to be a Jehovah’s Witness, so she’s used to be being “severely disliked”. And dislike is a feeling she must drum up, as she chases down the CEOs of mining companies and holds the government department officials to account for exposing people to hazardous mining pollution. Liefferink says she sees herself as a marathon runner instead of a sprinter, because her work requires a great deal of stamina. In one scene, we watch her patiently phone a government department to lay a complaint about the discharge of untreated mine water into a river system. It’s the 10th time she’s phoning, and she’s again sent from pillar to post. She hangs up cordially, then blinks away tears. But hounding the government officials – too often unsuccessfully – is not her primary work. Liefferink believes that environmental and social justice are inextricably linked, and she works with communities to hold mining companies to account. In one case, she laid a criminal complaint at the local police against the former owner of the Blyvoor mine, for numerous environmental infractions committed between 2008 and this year. She didn’t think anything would come of it, but to her surprise, the state decided to prosecute the mining directors responsible. It’s a huge victory for the Blyvoor community, which has been dealing with the effects of mining pollution for years. A third of all the gold in human history was mined in Johannesburg, and it was what gave birth to the city. But now we’re dealing with an environmental crisis that few of us even know the extent of. – Grethe Kemp Read: Jozi Gold reveals shocking truths about mining pollution Justa Frans, tracker Justa Frans Making the choice to keep her Kwhe family traditions alive, 25-year-old Justa Frans went on a journey to learn the art of wildlife tracking. Now she’s the first formally accredited female tracker in the Karoo. The settlement of Platfontein, about 22km from Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, is home to the Kwhe and !Xun descendants of the San Namibian trackers. In the 60s they were first deployed by t he Portuguese Angolan military forces in Angola, and later in the 70s by the former SA Defence Force in the Namibian struggle for independence. After that war ended many chose to relocate to South Africa. Frans’ family was one such. This 25-year-old was determined to keep alive her Kwhe family traditions so she made a choice. She rejected the modern hip-hop culture burgeoning in Platfontein and is threatening the old folklore, storytelling, traditional music and healing dances. “I didn’t want to lose my culture,” she says. “I chose tracking.” Frans now works at the Karoo Lodge in the award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve located on 28 000 hectares of wilderness in the middle of the Eastern Cape. Last year she graduated from the Sact Tracker Academy, a training division of the SA College for Tourism in Tswalu, South Africa’s largest private game reserve in the Northern Cape. It’s a fully accredited training programme with the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority and is the first tracker training school in South Africa to achieve this distinction. Frans graduated with a Level 3 tracking qualification that requires a 90% score. “I was taken into the bush. I thought it was just a classroom day. But it turned out to be the exam.” She is now working as an intern at Samara Reserve that also has a tracker academy on site, and hopes to be appointed to a permanent position. She is thrilled that Samara has recently become home to the first elephants and lions in the region for more than 170 years. “I can now track the Big Five.” She laughs as she says that guests are usually very surprised to have a woman tracker on their guided game drives and bush walks. “I love to see their faces!” Her ambition now is to get her driver’s licence and to teach other students, especially women, tracking skills. “Tracking is in my blood,” says Frans firmly. “I know that in the past it was only the men who did the tracking but now a woman can too.” She adds shyly: “Sometimes now the men are a bit jealous.” – Kate Turkington Read: Meet Justa Frans, the Karoo’s first formally accredited female tracker Portia Mavhungu, social innovator Portia Muvhungu Portia Mavhungu invented a device that allows those in wheelchairs to use the toilet without having to be lifted from their chair. Thirty-year-old Mavhungu, a Pretoria-based social entrepreneur, called her invention the Para Tube. She came up with the idea after being confined to a wheelchair for a while after an accident. “In 2011, I had an accident where I broke my pelvis. I was in the hospital for several weeks and in a wheelchair for the rest of the year. I fell into a depression over the loss of my independence. I needed my mother to lift me every time I needed to use the toilet. “I was in this situation for only a short time and thought about how hard it would be for those who experience this their whole lives.” With the Para Tube, the user pulls the centre part of the seat forward with a handle, and the middle seat flips up in the shape of a toilet. The user then defecates or urinates into a biodegradable bag in the opening. The bag locks in any smell and can then be disposed of in a similar way to a nappy. This invention is the first of its kind. Its efficiency and use of material offer greater comfort and ease than anything else available on the market. “The commode, which is our competitor, uses a bucket system. The commode seat is hard and people start sweating and develop sores, and their backs are hurt,” says Mavhungu. “With us, the seating is breathable material. It has PVC in the centre, so you’re able to wipe it. The seat is waterproof and the height of the seat protects the user’s lumbar spine.” The device will also be a great help in hospitals. “We have a shortage of nurses in South Africa,” says Mavhungu. “When you’re in a hospital, you have to wait for a nurse to lift you and place a steel bedpan underneath you. “I remember being in hospital with a broken pelvis and being taken off morphine. The nurses would put a bedpan underneath me and leave me, and I would just be shaking and in pain and waiting for the nurse to come back to take me off the bedpan.” Mavhungu says she didn’t decide to become an inventor, but always knew she wanted to help people. Her mother died from cancer in 2017, and she left her job to focus on developing the Para Tube. “What drives me is the passion. I know I’ve succeeded when someone has used the device and it’s helped them,” she says. – Grethe Kemp Read: This SA-invented device helps the disabled use the toilet Bongiwe Msomi, netball player  Netball Proteas captain playing for her home team Umgungundlovu during day four of the of the SPAR National Netball Championships at the University of Johannesburg sports grounds on Thursday. Picture: Palesa Dlamini/City Press Bongiwe Msomi (31) is the captain of the applause-deserving South African Netball Proteas team that reached the playoffs at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool for the first time in 24 years. Having started playing netball at the tender age of 16 Msomi said she could never have imagined herself playing for the national squad let alone leading the team. “Being selected to play for the national team has been the highlight of the 15 years I have been plaing netball. I have played overseas, in countries including Australia and England but the best thing for me, I can never take away the moment I was announced as a South African national player,” she said. Msomi said she never purposefully got in to the sport which now holds a special place not just in her heart but in her life. “Where I grew up soccer and netball were the major sports. Even when I tried things like athletics I realised I was nowhere close to being good. So I went to watch some neighbourhood friends in one of their netball training sessions one day and they were one player short and that is how I got into netball,” she said. The Proteas captain said she is glad that she took up the sport because it has a lot to offer young girls. She has been captain for more than three years and said she could not be prouder. “I am part of this amazing team and representing my country is humbling,” Msomi excitedly said. South Africa is set to host the next edition of the Netball World Cup, in Cape Town in 2023. – Palesa Dlamini

WATER

Long-term Treatment Vital for Water Supply

8 May 2020 | Author: Theresa Bhowan | Edited by Nadine James TOO SALTY Additional salinity, owing to the current rate of treatment, creates water security risks   With the delay in the long-term treatment or desalination of acid mine drainage (AMD) in the integrated Vaal river system and the delay in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase II, interventions are required to reduce the risk of water restrictions, states mining environmental activist organisation Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE). The FSE’s forecast for the extent of the deficit in terms of water shortages is substantial as the integrated Vaal river system supplies 60% of the economy and 45% of the population. “If the demand continues to grow at the current levels, the deficit in South Africa between water supply and demand could be at a gap of around 17%,” says FSE CEO Mariette Liefferink. Interventions are essential to reduce the risk of water restrictions until the LHWP Phase II can deliver water. Such interventions include water conservation and water demand management savings, eradicating the unlawful use of water, the desalination and reuse of mine water in terms of a recalibrated model, as well as the implementation of the Tshwane Reuse Project. Moreover, there is the immediate and short-term treatment of AMD by means of neutralising the water or using a pH adjustment. “In most cases, metals will precipitate out of the solution if the pH is adjusted upwards. It should be noted that the metals do not simply disappear, but change to a different oxidation state, which change them from a soluble to a solid form. These metals can again be mobilised and solubilised if the water becomes acidic,” notes Liefferink. Failure to establish a sustainable long-term solution to AMD will result in an increase of the salt load of total dissolved solids in the Vaal river, since the current short-term treatment of AMD contributes 362 t/d of such solids to the Vaal barrage. “The additional salinity, as a result of the current rate of treatment of AMD, creates water security risks. To comply with the regulatory limit of 600 mg/? of sulphates, good-quality water that is obtained through dilution will have to be released from the Vaal dam to ensure that the water below the Vaal barrage is fit for use,” explains Liefferink. Further, the projected demand for increased water releases of “expensive Lesotho water” from the Vaal dam will increase the stress upon the water supply. “The additional volume of water that may have to be released, as a result of the salinity associated with AMD, will result in a considerable reduction of water supply to the Upper Vaal – so much so that the total capacity of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands scheme will be cancelled,” she states, adding that it is for this reason that desalination is of great importance.   Link to original article here.

Feedback report on the WEF Nexus Policy Dialogue

Report attached for download....

FSE CONDUCTING SURVEYS WITHIN THE VAAL RIVER SYSTEM

11 & 12 JANUARY 2020 – the FSE conducting surveys within the Vaal river syst...