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Wonderfonteinspruit - the unaddressed questions

Written by  Tuesday, 09 April 2013 14:48
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Notwithstanding the establishment of the Wonderfonteinspruit Regulators Steering Committee on the 21st of December 2007 and  admirable intentions of the Wonderfonteinspruit Regulators Steering Committee to address an urgent environmental matter, and the honourable Minister's response, the following issues remain unaddressed at the time of writing:

 

  • Regular non-compliance by the Mines of the directives brought by the DWAF and the NNR with no enforcement regarding non-compliance.
  • The Wonderfonteinspruit Regulators Steering Committee’s expressed intention “the mines will be approached to contribute financially towards the remedial work to be done as per the findings of the team of experts”.
  • The call to the Minister of Minerals and Energy for the Constitution of the FWRDWA to be amended to deal with current and future circumstances in its area of responsibility and liability  and to intervene in the dissolution of the FWRDWA (a legal instrument which was created to deal with dewatering and rewatering issues within the Far West Rand).
  • Request for access to the archival  material of the FWRDWA, which is currently incomplete and poorly managed.  The archival material of the FWRDWA will undoubtedly assist in the apportionment of responsibility and liability.
  • The posture in which the issuing of water use licenses is currently standing.  This matter has been left in abeyance since 1998.  The issuing of water licenses has become imperative in view of inequities in water allocation. The use of water by the gold mining industry is prioritized.  Mining companies are visibly polluting ground and surface water with impunity while local communities go without.
  • The site locations of the priority hotspots.  It is assumed that the hotspots correspond to the contaminated sites identified by the NNR’s Screening Assessment, entitled Radiological Impacts of the Mining Activities to the Public in the Wonderfonteinspruit Catchment Area.

And,

  • Pursuant to the outcome of the screening assessment, the NNR issued directives to the holders operating in the vicinity of the WCA to inter alia to:
  • Immediately conduct a comprehensive investigation in order to determine the full extent of the radioactive contamination arising from mining operations over the WCA and provide a report to the NNR with respect to the findings of such an investigation.
  • Provide a plan of action for the immediate control of the area to prevent exposure to members of the public.
  • Review and update their environmental monitoring programme in light of the indications of radioactive contamination in the WCA.
  • Provide the NNR with a schedule for the review and update the Public Hazard Assessment of the mine, taking into account the leading exposure pathways as identified through the study. 

In terms of the NNR Status Report, dated the 29th October, 2007, the holders have not adequately responded to the directives as required by the NNR. To substantiate:

The NNR directed:

Conduct a comprehensive investigation in order to determine the full extent of the radioactive contamination arising from mining operations and provide a report to the NNR.

The Response:

Not all the holders submitted the required reports. Of the submitted reports, there is a clear indication that a comprehensive assessment need to be done as little additional information was provided.

The NNR directed:

Restrict access of the animals and the public or use of water for irrigation purposes to the identified sites, while further investigations were being carried out.

The Response:

Widespread watering of cattle, irrigation of crops and use of water for recreation and spiritual rituals are continuing.

The NNR directed:

Review and update  environmental monitoring plans in light of the indications of radioactive contamination in the WCA.

The Response:

No reports were provided.

The NNR directed:

Provide a schedule to review and update the Public Hazard Assessment (PHA) of the mine, taking into account the leading pathways as identified through the study.

The Response:

No schedule was provided for the review of the PHAs.

SUBMITTED BY: MARIETTE LIEFFERINK
CEO: FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT
DATE: 8TH APRIL, 2008