January 2014 Report

Written by  Tuesday, 18 February 2014 09:17
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An abridged report (not inclusive of all the activities) of some of the FSE’s activities during January, 2014 which may be of interest or relevance:

The FSE has conducted a tour of the West Rand goldfields with Prof. John Knox and UNEP officials on the 25th of January, 2014.  Prof. Knox is an internationally recognized expert on human rights law and international environmental law. In July 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed him to a three-year mandate as its first Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In that position, he is preparing a series of reports to the Human Rights Council on the relationship of human rights and environmental protection.  
The FSE also conducted a tour on the 28th of the West Rand goldfields with Dr Sybille Vermont as the Deputy Head of the Swiss Environmental Department (BAFU) responsible for international collaboration and colleagues.  Dr. Vermont is interested to explore potential collaboration in the domain of paleontology and then of course AMD water related issues due to the pollution of the aquifer under the Cradle for Humankind.  Engineers from the engineering firm, Read, Swatman & Voigt (Pty) Ltd. participated in the tour.
10th of January - Tour of the West Rand goldfields with the Luxin Foundation and Jacquelene Friedenthal, the Science & Technology Counselor (Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa)
18th of January, 2014 - workshop with the youth in Khutsong.
21st of January, 2014 - workshop with the farmers and emerging black farmes within the Westonaria/Fochville area with presentations by Goldfields, Sibanye Gold and Gold One.

22nd of February, 2014 -  Participation in the key stakeholder meeting pertaining to the DWA’s Fatal Flaw Analysis For The Proposed Short Term Sludge Storage Facility And Pipeline Associated With The Treatment Of Acid Mine Drainage In The Eastern Basin Of The Witwatersrand Gold Fields and submitted verbal and written comments.
23 and 24th of January 2014 - participation in the United Nations’ Human Rights (Office of the High Commissioner) and UNEP’s Constitutional Rights to a Healthy Environment: Consultation on Good Practices with a Focus on Africa consultative meeting.  Please see appended hereto two of the documents which were submitted pursuant to the said consultative meeting.
29 January 2014 – WRC Workshop on the selection and costing of water reclamation and re-use options.
30 January 2014 – Focus group meetings with the Kalbasfontein/Cardoville/Raatskraal Farmers.
31 January 2014 – interview with the Senior Advisor, Private Sector Department Oxfam America on the social and environmental impacts of gold mining.
With reference to my recent appointment by the Department of Water Affairs as member of the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) for the formation of the Vaal Catchment Management Agency:  As you may reflect, the duties and powers of a CMA are discussed in the National Water Act.  In terms of the e.g. Section 19 of the National Water Act, a catchment management agency may direct any person who fails to take measures to prevent or remedy the effects of pollution to commence taking specific measures before a given date; diligently continue with those measures, and complete them before a given date.  Should a person fail to comply, or comply inadequately with a directive , the catchment management agency may take the measures it considers necessary to remedy the situation and recover all costs incurred as a result of its acting jointly and severally from any person who is or was responsible for, or who directly or indirectly contributed to the pollution or the potential pollution, etc.)  

In view of the above-mentioned, it is sincerely hoped that the FSE will be in the position to assist with the minimisation and prevention of pollution.  
3rd of February, 2014:  The FSE has called for an important meeting with key stakeholders, including the liquidator, Prof. Tracy Humby of the Wits Law School (advisor to the FSE), the Legal Resources Centre (representing the FSE), the DMR, the DEA, the Chamber of Mines, the FWRDWA, GDARD, the DWA, the WRDM and the Tlokwe and Merafong Local Municipalities on the 3rd of February, 2014 to discuss issues pertaining to the provisional winding up of the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine and subsequent developments (please see appended news media report).  

The Blyvoor issue is a complicated case and it may have negative or positive impacts upon neighbouring mines and mines within the region. During the meeting on the 3rd of February, 2014, it is our intention to attempt to find answers to the following important questions:  (Prof. Tracy Humby will lead us in debating these issues.)

  • What are the environmental obligations of the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mining Company (BGMC)?
  • What should happen to these environmental obligations:
    • when the BGMC is wound up?
    • when another company such as Goldrich buys the mine?
    • What is the role of the DMR/DEA/GDARD in these circumstances and what are their powers?

It is hoped that the liquidator, Mr. Roering will assist us in explaining what Goldrich is buying. Are they buying shares in the BGMC? If this is so then BGMC continues to exist as a corporate entity holding the (still old order) mining right. Or are they just buying certain assets of the BGMC? If so, will the winding up of the BGMC still proceed? What is the DMR doing about approving this transfer and about transferring the environmental liabilities?

The FSE submitted two PAIA applications (please see appended) to the DMR.  While the FSE did not receive, at the time of writing a response, the DMR did participate in a meeting on the 22nd of November 2013 and on the 7th of December. During the FSE’s meeting on the 7 of December, 2013 with the DMR, Merafong Local Municipality, the liquidator, Blyvoor Mine, GDARD, WRDM, DWA and DEA and affected community representatives, the DMR stated that a directive would be issued against Blyvoor Mine and its mine manager to address the environmental impacts.   

There is provision made in the environmental legislation for the relevant and affected state departments (Environmental Affairs, DMR and Water Affairs) to issue directives as contemplated in section 28(4) of NEMA compelling the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine to undertake the requisite remediation, failing which for the relevant department to undertake the requisite remediation and recover the costs in terms of section 28(7) and (8) of NEMA (and hence submit a claim in their capacity as creditor). Similar provisions exist in section 19 of the National Water Act 36 of 1998 for the said departments to issue a directive contemplated in section 19(1), and failing which for the departments to then undertake the remedial measures themselves and recover the costs thus incurred in terms of section 19(4) and 19(5)  whereafter the Department of Water Affairs would be able to submit a claim as a creditor in terms of the winding up process. In similar vein application may be made to compel the Minister to issue the directives as contemplated in section 45 of the MPRDA, and to conduct the remediation and recover the costs in terms of section 45 and 46 of the MPRDA, whereafter the Minister may lodge a claim as creditor in terms of the winding up applications. The FSE is unsure regarding the current status of the directive.  

Anglo Gold Ashanti has submitted a Basic Assessment Report for comment on the Decommissioning of Redundant Infrastructure (West Wits Operations and Vaal Operations).  The FSE has submitted comments.
The FSE was interviewed by inter alia ANN7 (African News Network) on illegal mining within the goldfields on the 8th of January, 2014; by  Radio 702 on the impact of mining on water resources, by Engineering News on AGA’s Vaal Operations, by Saturday Star and Beeld on Mintails operations, by the Mail & Guardian on Blyvooruitzicht Mine, by the Saturday Star on the long term treatment of AMD, by the Carletonville Herald on Mintails’ operations and the Blyvooruitzicht Mine, with Bloomsberg News on radioactivity within the goldfields, etc.