Liquidation leaves a R330-million environmental mess for Gauteng residents, government and other mining companies to clean up. Mark Olalde investigates
More than two decades ago, science advocate IsmailMore than two decades ago, science advocate IsmailSerageldin forewarned that “the wars of the next centurywill be fought over water, unless we change our approachto managing this precious and vital resource”. Thissentiment is perilously close for comfort for South Africa,whose water crisis is manifesting with dire consequences.Given that the country has done little in the recent past to rectifyits water challenges, it will soon pay the price, financially, socially andeconomically, says Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for aSustainable Environment (FSE).
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By Charlotte Mathews -
July 27, 2018
Mine dump near Soweto
ALL West Wits really wants is “a fair go” at mining responsibly, chairman Michael Quinert said on Thursday.
He was addressing a media briefing to “bust some myths” that have arisen in local media about the ASX-listed group’s plans to mine for gold from open pits and underground near the suburbs of Florida in Roodepoort and Meadowlands East in Soweto.
This is a very degraded area – a “moonscape”, in Quinlan’s own words – as a result of past mining. West Wits’ 6,000 hectare site is surrounded by old dumps which are tainting air and water and overrun by illegal miners or zama-zamas.
The legacy of Mintails, another ASX-listed company that treated dumps near Krugersdorp and Randfontein, lingers in popular memory. Mintails was put into business rescue about three years ago, with huge unfunded environmental liabilities.
Communities are opposed to West Wits’ plans because of the legacy they are experiencing from past gold mining, Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) and a well-known local environmental activist, said.
“Mintails left behind massive open pits with no fences or warning signs. Communities are no longer under-educated about the impact of mining and they have seen no medium to longer term benefits, only that future generations will inherit an irreparably destroyed ecosystem, acid mine drainage and dust from tailings storage dams,” she said.
Quinert said West Wits’ assets were never owned by Mintails.
The only connection between the companies was that Mintails held a stake in West Wits which was sold about a decade ago. Although it has no interest in taking over Mintails’ assets as dump processing is not its strategy, West Wits has an interest with other businesses in the area in addressing the problem of the dumps around its site and is making constructive suggestions on how to address it.
West Wits believes by mining responsibly it can help to clean up the area by extracting the near-surface gold that is attracting artisanals and then sealing up the shafts that they are using to go underground.
But some locals have argued that West Wits’ plans are threatening the livelihood of the zama-zamas and it would be a better solution to legalise them and allow them to mine on this site – or at least employ them.
Quinert strongly disagreed.
He said although the zama-zamas were good at finding the reef, they operated in a lawless universe, working hard and drinking hard, which did not make them ideal employees. “We do not believe they are good for the economy. They are too difficult to licence and regulate,” he said.
West Wits is targeting a resource of about 3.7 million ounces showing an average grade of 3.6g/t to a cut-off depth of 400 metres. It plans to extract gold from various open pits, each with a life of six to eight months before it will be re-filled, for the first five years and then move underground from years six to 30. Profits from open pit mining will be used to fund underground development.
Although West Wits is being blamed for blasting in the area, this is coming from a dynamite factory nearby and some artisanal activity, Quinert said. Open pit mining will not entail any blasting. West Wits will use a new technology called an Xcentric Ripper, which is attached to an excavator, and is about 30% quieter than a rock hammer.
At this stage it is likely to blast once it goes underground in year six, if it cannot use the Ripper, but he expects those blasts will be too deep to be felt in surrounding residential areas.
There will be no crushing or processing on site. West Wits will use the spare processing capacity in the area owned by companies like Sibanye. It will truck its ore to the processors and is working with property developers to take ore roads away from houses. There will be no tailings dam on this site.
In its submission, the FSE suggested the most practicable solution would not be more open pit or deep underground mining, which creates risks for surrounding communities, but reclamation of the tailings storage facilities that belong to Mintails.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENT ECOLOGICAL STATUS OF THE RIVERS AND DAMS WITHIN THE CROCODILE WEST/LIMPOPO WATER MANAGEMENT AREA
The Reserve, which has priority over other water uses, provides for two components; (1) basic human needs, ensuring that the essential needs of individuals served by the water resource directly are provided for; and (2) the ecological reserve ensuring that the water required to protect aquatic ecosystems of the water resources is provide for. Providing for the ecological water requirements is a legal priority. Implementation of the Ecological Reserve is expected to result in serious deficits in the Crocodile West/Limpopo Water Management Area.
The overall present ecological status of this Water Management Area is a D/E category due to industrial (including current mining activities), domestic and commercial effluents, sewage, dysfunctional Waste Water Treatment Works’ (WWTWs), agricultural run-off and litter, over-abstraction of groundwater and eutrophication problems. Much of the area has low rainfall with significant inter-dependencies for water resources between catchments and with neighbouring Water Management Areas, e.g. the Vaal.
A large part of future potential 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 DWS’ Report on the Classification of Significant Water Resources in the Crocodile (West) Marico WMA and Matlabas and Mokolo Catchments: Limpopo WMA and the DWS’ Business Case for the Limpopo CMA (September 2013) show a dramatic increase in water demands in this Area as a result of:
Many of the rivers in this Water Management Area host important wetland systems, freshwater ecosystem priority areas and are important for water supply and biodiversity.
Poor water quality does not only affect associated sediments and aquatic life, but has an effect on terrestrial ecosystems and the economy as well. Polluted water may also pose health threats to recreational and domestic water.
Quantity of water is inextricably linked to water quality. Polluted water is not treated at source but is allowed to flow into rivers. South Africa is a water poor country with only 8.6% of its rainfall being available as surface water. There is therefore no opportunity for the dilution of polluted water.
The DWS developed the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, the classification of water resources, the determination of Resource Quality Objectives and the determination of the Reserve for the major water management areas such as the Crocodile West/Limpopo and Vaal Water Management Areas, the National Water and Sanitation Water Quality Strategy and Policy, the Mine Water Management Policy, etc. All these plans, strategies and policies exist in vain if they are not delivered through action and through the recognition that “you cannot drink paper plans”.
PRESENT ECOLOGICAL STATUS OF THE MOKOLO, MATLABAS, CROCODILE (WEST) AND MARICO CATCHMENTS IN THE LIMPOPO NORTH WEST WATER MANAGEMENT AREA
Upper Hennops and Rietvlei Rivers to inflow to Rietvlei Dam
This is a threatened system. It includes wetland freshwater ecosystem priority areas, pans, peatlands and valley bottom wetlands. The present ecological status of the river is a D/E category due to urbanisation, return flows and poor water quality. The river reach is significantly impacted by agricultural activities, industrial and urban effluent discharges.
The aquifer is highly impacted by land based activities and pollution.
This dam supplies Tshwane with raw water. Water quality impacts remain a threat to the system. Flow into the dam is supported by Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) discharges. The dam is located within the Rietvlei Nature reserve, which is an important protected area. The Rietvlei wetland system is situated immediately upstream of the Rietvlei Dam within the Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve. The wetland is a peatland.
Hennops River from outflow Rietvlei Dam to the A21B catchment (including Sesmylspruit, Kaalspruit and Olifantspruit tributaries)
This system is degraded owing to upstream waste water treatment works (WWTW). Includes the Sesmylspruit, Kaalspruit and Olifantspruit tributaries. The present ecological status of the river is a D/E category due to urbanisation, return flows and poor water quality.
Upper Pienaars River, Edendalespruit and Moretlele Rivers to Roodeplaat Dam
This system supports the supply of water to Roodeplaat Dam. Abstraction by Magalies Water indirectly tunnel (used by Tshwane). This system is degraded owing to upstream waste water treatment works (WWTW). The present ecological status of the river is a E category due to urbanisation, return flows and poor water quality. FEPA wetlands are present. The system is overall degraded with a present
This dam is eutrophic with algal blooms impacting on the taste of the water. The dam is depended upon for the supply of raw water. It is a conservation area, and supports a wide range of recreational activities (international training for canoeists during summer). Toxic algal blooms are present. Severely impacted by WWTWs discharges, urbanisation and industrial effluent.
Upper and middle reaches of Apies River, Skinnerspruit, Pienaars River from outflow Roodeplaat Dam to Boekenhoutpruit confluence, Roodeplaatspruit, Boekenhoutspruit
The upper parts of the catchment are impacted by urbanization, irrigation runoff and WWTWs. The Ecological Importance and Sensitivity (EIS) is high.
Jukskei, Klein Jukskei, Modderfonteinspruit
It includes the headwaters of Jukskei. WWTWs located both upstream and downstream of these systems which includes the transfers for Mokolo (Lephalale). The systems are highly impacted from nutrient input thus threatening the biotic integrity of the systems. Serious water quality problems exist as the river is severely impacted by WWTWs discharges (from nine WWTWs), urbanisation and industrial effluent. The present ecological status is an E category.
Upper reaches of Crocodile River and Bloubank Spruit
This is the headwaters of the Crocodile River. Tourism activities are high. Water users include agriculture. The serious threat to the system is mining and the high salinity from the neutralised AMD from the western basin. The Tweelopiespruit flows into the Bloubankspruit and forms part of the Krugersdorp Game Reserve and the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. The groundwater is heavily impacted by historic mine dewatering and historic discharges of acid mine drainage (AMD) into Tweelopiespruit and further downstream. Percy Stewart and Randfontein WWTWs discharge into this river system.
Radioactive pollution has been identified. There is also excessive sedimentation of the rivers, and aquatic weed infestation.
IUA 3 – Crocodile/Rooodekopjes
Crocodile River from outflow Hartebeespoort Dam to inflow Roodekopjes Dam, Rosespruit, Ramogatla and Kareespruit
The water resources are in a degraded state owing to the changes in the flow regime as a result of the Hartebeestpoort Dam just upstream. Madibeng and Magalies Water are dependent on this reach for water supply for consumers. The Rosespruit and Kareespruit are have water quality impacts (degradation due to mining impacts, informal settlements, irrigation return flows, industrial, chrome smelters). There are impacts from the Brits area as well. Hyacinth growth observed in the Crocodile river below Brits. Encroachment and sedimentation is extensive.
Dam is a source of domestic water supply (25% allocated to Magalies water – transfer to Vaalkop via canal). T Impacted by surrounding activities (irrigation, mining and industrial).
Sterkstroom from outflow Buffelspoort Dam to inflow Roodekopjes Dam, Maretwane, Tshukutswe
Area forms part of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve. Resources are impacted by mining activities, settlements along the river and WWTWs discharges.
Some water quality impacts are present in the dam.
Hex River outflow Olifantsnek Dam to inflow Bospoort Dam, Sandspruit
The water resources of the Hex River have been degraded due to the Olifanstsnek, Bospoort and Vaalkop Dams situated on the river. Rustenburg and extensive mining and agriculture in the middle reaches of the catchment further impacts on the water resources, both quality and quantity. Further impacts include urbanisation, irrigation return flows and discharges from WWTWs.
Poor water quality currently present in the dam.
Hex River outflow Bospoort Dam to inflow Vaalkop Dam
The water resources of the Hex River have been degraded due to the Olifantsnek, Bospoort and Vaalkop Dams situated on the river, as well as upstream impacts. This reach includes localised subsistence use, game farms and domestic water supply. High conductivity observed. Impacts also due to settlements along river.
Magalies Water has requested more releases from Bospoort and Olifantsnek Dam to improve water quality in Vaalkop dam. Need to improve drinking water quality. Water quality is impacted due to industrial pollution, return flows, mining impacts, nutriennts (eutrophication).
Upper reaches of Elands to Swartruggens Dam
Some sedimentation due to slate mining. Flow impacts present and poor sanitation is also impact on river system.
Elands river downstream Swartruggens Dam to Lindleyspoort Dam
This reach of the Elands River is located below dam. The reach is impacted upon by the WWTWs, urban activities, and diamond mining. Water quality deterioration is observed.
The upstream impacts include WWTWs.
Upper Koster to Koster Dam, Rooikloofspruit
Impacts include WWTWs, intensive cattle and poultry farming and unauthorised abstraction.
Elands River outflow Lindleyspoort Dam to inflow Vaalkop Dam, Brakkloofspruit, Roosspruit, Sandspruit Mankwe. Leragane, Molapongwamongana
The Mankwe tributary is protected in the Plianesburg National Park. These rivers are however surrounded by mining activities on Leragane (impacted). Tanneries are present in the town. WWTWs discharges impact on water quality.
Upper Klein Marico to inflow Klein Maricopoort dam, Rhenosterfonteinspruit, Malmanieloop, Kareespruit
Impacts on Kareespruit from WWTW, irrigation and over abstraction. Mining activities are present. Groundwater: Significantly impacted by bulk groundwater abstractions for municipal supplies; thus quantity and due to agricultural activities, quality may become an issue in future.
Klein Maricopoort Dam
Water quality impacts present.
Klein Marico downstream Klein Maricopoort Dam to Kromellenboog Dam, Wilgeboomspruit
Impacts include irrigation and over abstraction. Poor water quality due to irrigation return flows.
Dam is impacted by upstream siltation, erosion, and nutrients.
Groot Marico, Polkadraaispruit
There is mine prospecting activities in the area and some settlements forming part of the town of Marico, agricultural activities present. Water quality is impacted in the lower reaches of the Marico river.
Marico Eye, Kaaloog-se-Loop, Bokkraal-se-Loop, Ribbokfontein-se-Loop, Rietspruit (southern eye), Kuilsfontein, Syferfontein and Bronkhorstfontein
Groundwater: Large abstractions for mining, agriculture and municipal supplies - current problems with high groundwater level recession rates in the Lichtenburg Area. There are some sedimentation impacts due to mining in the area. Mine prospecting is also underway.
Malmanie Eye, Dolomites
Groundwater: Huge impact on groundwater sustainability due to growing demand for municipal and
Bodibe Eye (Polfonteinspruit and Lotlhakane tributary catchment area)
High groundwater abstraction in the area resulting in a decrease in groundwater which has further resulted in spontaneous combustion underground and the peatland oxidised and been burning for several years now, resulting in a loss of the peatland, and poses a health and safety hazard for people and livestock. Impacts include urban and settlement activities and cement mining. Serious depletion of groundwater levels in this area (~25m) due to over-utilisation. Large eyes (springs) already impacted and dry.
Molopo Eye, Grootfontein Eye, Molopo headwaters to inflow Modimola dam
Impacts include a cement factory and urban development (Mahikeng). Groundwater resources and wetlands are priority (unchannelled valleybottom wetlands and peatlands). The Molopo eye is a peatland and important for water supply and biodiversity support. Grootfontein aquifer not productive anymore, and all Mahikeng's water is sourced from Molopo's Eye, thus it is vital that the flow is maintained. Recreational activity in the area is also impacting on the eye.
Molopo River mainstem only from Modimola Dam to Disaneng Dam
Highly impact from urban settlement in Mahikeng which has resulted in a E present ecological status category. Serious problem with water pollution in Mahikeng and catchment of the Modimole Dam (WWTWs). Important wetland systems are present in this reach.
Setumo (Modimola) Dam
The WWTWs of Mahikeng is located just upstream of the dam which is impacting on the dam water quality. Poor water quality.
Discharge from Dinaseng for downstream trans-boundary use (into Botswana) is important.
Dinokana Eye/Ngotwane Dam
Upper Nogotwane, Donokana Eye
Two important wetland systems occur namely the Dinokana eye and Ngotwana wetland (high biodiversity wetland in semi-arid climate with its source in Botswana) which both supply water for livelihood support for people, livestock and wildlife. Groundwater priority area. Groundwater related subsistence use. Water balance in this area is a concern as this is a sole-aquifer system for Dinokana and Zeerust. Water level of eye has dropped due to over abstraction.
Limited irrigation and supports downstream domestic water supply for villages. Dam is impacted from WWTWs discharge from Botswana. Water quality is a threat.
Groot Marico/ Molatedi Dam
Groot Marico from outflow Marico Bosveld Dam to Molatedi Dam, all tributaries
The land area is degraded due to over grazing and development. Smaller dams are present on the tributaries supplying water to local communities (Pella Dam, Madikwe, Sehujane Dam). Water quality must be protected.
Releases are made in respect of meeting the international obligations with Botswana and for downstream
Groot Marico/ Seasonal tributaries
Groot Marico mainstem, outflow Molatedi Dam, Rasweu, Maselaje rivers
Impacts are primarily as a result of the Molatedi Dam upstream and the release pattern from the Tswasa Weir for irrigation purposes. Tributaries are mostly dry, recently there has been no releases made for Botswana. Riparian zone is heavily grazed. High sedimentation following rainfall events due to heavy erosion and overgrazing.
Wilgespruit, Bofule, Kolobeng, Magoditshane, Motlhabe
Area is very important from an ecotourism point of view (includes the Pilansberg National Park). The water quality is degraded due to mining activities, town development and irrigation in the catchment. Severe water quality impacts on the some of the tributaries, viz. Mothlabe and Wilgespruit. Water quality must be addressed.
Bierspruit outflow Bierspruit Dam to confluence with the Crocodile River, Brakspruit, Phufane, Sefatlhane, Lesobeng, lower reach Bofule
The water quality is degraded due to platinum mining, town development (sewage effluent), irrigation
Crocodile River outflow Roodekopjes Dam to upstream Sand River confluence, Sleepfonteinspruit, Klipspruit tributaries
Return flows are a major impact on the system.
Proximity of mines to the aquifers could lead to dewatering of the aquifer.
Sand River to confluence with the Crocodile River to Bierspruit confluence, Sondags, Vaalwaterspruit
Irrigation return flows are a major impact.
Lower Crocodile from Bierspruit confluence to the Botswana border (Limpopo River)
The Thabazimbi WWTW discharges impacts on the water quality of the Crocodile River.
There are also mining activities in the area.
Apies River, Tshwane tributary
Water quality issues are prevalent, due to localised and upstream urban impacts.
Pienaars River from Boekenshout confluence to Apies River confluence
Magalies Water abstracts water for domestic supply on Boekenshoutspruit (klipdrift). The area includes sprawling peri-urban villages. Land use impacts include catlle in river habitat, and impacts from solid waste and sewage effluent. Important resource for the adjacent community.
Moretele (Pienaars) River from Plat River confluence to Klipvoor Dam, Kutswane to Klipvoor Dam
Water quality impacts are primarily a result of urbanization, specifically deterioration in water quality due to WWTWs discharges.
Currently too much water is released from the Rietgat WWTW.
Pienaars River from Klipvoor Dam to Crocodile Riverconfluence, Tolwane tributary
The rivers are impacted by urban development and irrigated agriculture. The Tolwane river is significantly impacted. The rivers are impacted by high nutrient levels and eutrophication is evident. Extensive sand mining is also occurring in the area (largely unauthorised).
Moloko River , Sand River and Klein Sand, Brakspruit, Sondagsloop, Heuningspruit, Dwars, Jim se loop tributaries
The main impact on the water resource is irrigation return flows, WWTWs discharge from town and piggeries. The area is important as it plays a role as a corridor for fish (FEPA rivers). Important fish include CPRE, AURA and AMOS (flow dependent and water quality dependent fish species). Extensive wetland systems occur in the Sand River catchment which form important habitat for Blue Cranes. Important valley bottom and hillslope wetlands present forming part of the Waterberg system (unique combination of flora and faunal associations).
Mokolo River to inflow Mokolo Dam, Taaibosspruit, Malmanies and Bulspruit tributaries
Water quality issues present due to septic tanks used by the game lodges.
Grootspruit and Sandspruit tributaries (Mokolo headwater catchment)
The main impact on the water resource is irrigation return flows and WWTWs discharge from town of Alma. Extensive wetland systems occur in the area coupled with the area being a fish support area. Important habitat for Blue Cranes (which have been identified within the Sand River catchment).
Catchment area includes the Medupi and Matimba power stations, Grootegeluk coal mine, Maropong and Lephalale towns. Impacts on this system include coal mining, the power stations, coal bed methane extraction, impacts from the towns as well as agriculture. Water quality impacts are a concern, with deterioration observed. Serious impacts of local groundwater resources due to dewatering and future acid mine drainage discharges.
Mokolo mainstem - Mokolo from below EWR3 to the Tamboti confluence
Major sand mining is occurring within the Mokolo mainstem catchment. This has resulted in siltation and loosening of substrate.
Mokolo mainstem - from Tamboti confluence to Limpopo
Abstraction activities is high in this mainstem with sand mining being a considerable issue in the Lepahlale area.
This area has been earmarked for future coal mining developments. FEPA wetlands are present. Migratory corridor to the Limpopo for the bird species. There is the Matlabas peatland/mire and valleybottom wetlands present.
Catchment area including Steenbokpan
The Steenbokpan area has been earmarked for future coal mining in this area.
 The catchment areas lie predominately within the North West Province and include the northern part of Gauteng as well as the south-western portion of the Limpopo Province. Towards the north west the area borders on Botswana. The main river systems within the catchment (Crocodile, Marico, Mokolo and Matlabas rivers) flow northwards to join the Limpopo River. Major tributary systems include the Pienaars, Apies, Moretele, Hennops, Jukskei, Magalies, Elands, Klein Marico, Molopo, and Ngotwane rivers.
The Pilanesburg Nature Reserve, the Cradle of Humankind Heritage Site, the Marakele Nature Reserve, the Bafokeng Tribal area, the dolomitic wetland or eye systems and large dams such as the Hartbeespoort, Vaalkop, Roodekopjes, Klipvoor, Roodeplaat, Molatedi and Mokolo Dams are all very important features in the catchment area. The Pilanesburg Nature Reserve, the Cradle of Humankind Heritage Site and Hartbeespoort Dam are key tourist attractions in South Africa.
 A D-Category indicates a largely modified river system and an E category indicates a seriously modified resource.
 Reference: Determination of Resource Quality Objectives in the Mokolo, Matlabas, Crocodile (West) And Marico Catchments in the Limpopo North West Water Management Area (WMA 01) Resource Quality Objectives And Numerical Limits Report Report No.: RDM/WMA01/00/CON/RQO/0516. 2016.
The National Planning Commission (NPC) invites you to participate in a dialogue process on developing pathways for the just transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society. As articulated in South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP), specifically Chapter Five, the NDP envisages that by 2030, the country will have made headway in transitioning to a society that is just, inclusive, sustainable and resilient.
The intention over the coming months is to run two parallel engagement processes. One will involve key government, civil society, business and labour representatives in a Social Partner Dialogue Series. The second one will be a Broader Stakeholder Engagement which intends to open up the conversation to all stakeholders around the country, and inform the Social Partner Dialogue Series.
The aim of this process is to reach a social compact which will involve seeking an agreed vision and identified pathway for a just transition which addresses poverty, inequality, and unemployment.
which we hope you will be able to read before the workshop and a programme for the day.
Sustainable Energy Africa NPC
9b Bell Crescent Close
Sustainable Energy Africa is a not-for-profit organization supporting cities and other institutions with sustainable energy transitions
By GroundUp• 24 July 2018
“Powerful interests use violence and threats to cut off those defending human rights.”
By John Yeld.
First published by GroundUp.
Coal mining is a very dirty business. And as a stream of abuse on social media against those challenging a new coal mining venture in one of South Africa’s most critical and formally protected water catchment areas confirms, the dirt isn’t always in the coal dust.
Twitter accusations against a coalition of eight environmental and social justice groups and their lawyers seeking to block the planned Yzermyn Underground Coal Mine development at Mabola in Mpumalanga, include treason, economic sabotage, extortion, bribery, blackmail, duplicity, dishonesty and lies.
They are further accused of being “anti-national, anti-people, anti-development”, and a comparison to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels has been thrown in for good measure.
As ludicrous as it sounds, it’s no laughing matter, and suggests that a Bell Pottinger-style social media harassment strategy may be under way against opponents of the mine project.
Particularly worrying was a thinly veiled death threat made on Facebook last month, aimed at local farmer Oubaas Malan who also opposes the Yzermyn mine but is not involved in the comprehensive legal challenges currently under way by the coalition.
The threat was posted by Thabiso Nene, who heads The Voice Community Representative Council, a registered NPO billed as “a community-based organisation that stands for radical economic transformation” in the Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme local municipality where the would-be mine is located.
What particularly incenses Nene, Tripathi and other supporters of Atha Africa is that an open coal mine, Loskop, has been operating on Malan’s family farm on the same area. However, Malan has countered by pointing out that this is an old mine started in the 1980s – three decades before the Mabola Protected Area was proclaimed – and that he doesn’t own the mining right to it. Although he concedes negotiating a fee from the mining company that most recently owned the mining right and attempted to work the mine, now effectively abandoned, he says it reneged on payments to him and has caused severe environmental damage.
Last month, Malan boasted to the Saturday Star newspaper about his tenacity in tackling Atha Africa. “I’m like a Jack Russell terrier fighting a boerbul. I won’t let go,” he was quoted as saying.
Nene’s lengthy Facebook response included what can be interpreted as a death threat: “As Oubaas say ‘I’m like Jack Russell terrier fighting boerboel. I just won’t let go’ he should watch our community lays Jack Russell terrier to permanent sleep. We r masters in resting dogs with rabies. Obaas can take dat to de bank.”
A formal complaint about the death threat – that now appears to have been removed from Facebook was made to the South African Human Rights Commission. The commission described the threat as “naked criminality” but declined to investigate, suggesting instead that the police should handle the matter because of the violence implicit in it.
Many of the offending tweets in the social media campaign against the coalition have been made by Praveer Tripathi, senior vice-president of the Atha Africa Ventures mining company that plans to develop Yzermyn. It acquired a mining right in 2015 but the granting of this right and various environmental approvals are now being challenged by the coalition.
Tripathi also retweeted, without comment, a tweet by @Madlokovu15 that had in turn repeated the Facebook death threat word-for-word.
Tripathi’s Twitter profile distances him from his employer, suggesting his comments should not be read as signifying his professional position as a senior executive of Atha Africa, a subsidiary of the India-based international mining company Atha Group. The company has also attempted to distance itself from his highly controversial remarks. “Mr Tripathi’s posts on his personal account, are his own personal views and do not mirror the views and opinions of Atha Africa. Accordingly, Atha Africa is not responsible for these comments.”
However, the company has not publicly condemned any of Tripathi’s comments, but asked that questions on the matter be directed to the executive himself.
Screen capture from Praveer Tripathi’s Twitter account.
A formal complaint about Tripathi’s earlier social media comments has been lodged with Minerals Council South Africa (formerly the Chamber of Mines) by the Centre for Environmental Rights, a public interest group of attorneys that represents the coalition. Atha Africa Ventures is a Council member and as such is bound by the Council’s mandatory code of ethical business conduct and guiding principles. The Council has yet to respond to the Centre’s complaint.
Tripathi, who has just 70 Twitter followers, last week failed to respond to emailed questions asking him to explain the accusations in his tweets and to comment on their possible consequences. Instead, he posted correspondence from this writer on his Twitter timeline, accompanied by derogatory comments. His posts prompted some of his followers to post their own abusive tweets.
The proposed Yzermyn coal mine lies within the water-rich, protected grasslands of the Ekangala/Drakensberg strategic water source area – one of 22 such areas that collectively comprise just 8% of South Africa’s land yet provide half of all surface run-off water in the form of wetlands, streams and rivers.
Environmentalists argue that coal mining is highly destructive and poisonous to the environment, and is not compatible with biodiversity conservation of pristine areas like Mabola that provide invaluable “ecosystem services” like water. If the project is allowed to continue, the proposed coal mine in Mabola will set a dangerous precedent that will expose all of South Africa’s protected environments to encroachment from mining and other destructive and non-sustainable land uses, they say.
But Mabola is also within an area marked by extreme poverty and unemployment where many local residents are desperate for jobs. So it’s understandable that the possibility of some 500 work opportunities – albeit unskilled – at the proposed mine is highly attractive to some of them.
Residents of Mabola get water from a spring. Photo supplied
The social media invective against coalition members and its lawyers has increased significantly over the past two months as several of the legal challenges to the coal project approach adjudication. The first, an appeal to the Water Tribunal to overturn the water licence granted to Yzermyn, is set down for hearing from Tuesday to Thursday this week.
On 29 June, Nene’s The Voice organised a public meeting in Volksrust that was billed as an open forum debate “to clear misconceptions about the proposed mining project near Wakkerstroom”. Nene posted on Facebook that an invitation had been extended to the management of Atha Africa and that it had confirmed its attendance. “That very progressive Atha management,” he said approvingly.
An invitation was also extended to members of the coalition and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) but it was declined. The Centre told Mining Weekly it would not be appropriate for it to take part in a public debate because of the extensive pending litigation in the matter.
Its refusal prompted a string of Twitter insults from Tripathi, including: “Is the Cenre (sic) for Environmental Rights afraid that it’s lies would be nailed in the #communitywantstoknow initiative by the community? They said the mine will threaten Gauteng and have national and intntnl (sic) impacts. Why don’t they explain the ‘how’ to the community?”
After the meeting, attended by some 1,400 people, Tripathi congratulated Nene for “exposing” the “foreign-funded” and “treasonous” organisations “who have no sympathies and respect for the community”. This allegation of treason was picked up and repeated several times.
However, the only “evidence” they produced to back the allegation was publicly available documents from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) detailing some funding for two of the organisations in the coalition. SIDA is an official Swedish government agency of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, responsible for the bulk of Sweden’s official development assistance to developing countries and civil society groups – including South Africa’s democratic government.
The tactic of social media harassment is becoming increasingly common in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, where vulnerable communities and civil society organisations have been working to protect and promote environmental and social justice in the face of strong-arm and bullying tactics by some governments and big business – notably mining interests.
Threats and intimidation create an emotionally charged atmosphere that makes it harder for communities to achieve resolution, and in some scenarios can result in physical violence, injury, destruction of property and even murder.
A case in point is the tragic death in March 2016 of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe at Mbizana in Pondoland, who was leading opposition to the attempt by Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Ltd to mine mineral sands at Xolobeni. Although the Hawks have not made any progress in their investigation into Radebe’s murder – this was confirmed by spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi last week – it’s widely believed that he was assassinated because of his opposition to the mining proposal.
And as recently as this month, two activists opposing the relocation of a community in KwaDube in KwaZulu-Natal, supposedly to accommodate onshore mining operations between Mthunzini and Richards Bay, were also shot dead execution-style within days of each other.
Murray Hunter of the Right2Know Campaign says threats and attacks from mining companies are part of a bigger trend of corporations trying to bully their critics into silence. “We know from bitter experience that those who go up against big-money mining projects often face worse than threats in the end.”
And Melissa Fourie of the Cape Town-based Centre for Environmental Rights – one of the main targets of the Yzermyn invective – says it’s a common pattern in South Africa. “Within our network of environmental rights activists and defenders, we see threats and intimidation of activists every day, most of these not reported or recorded.”
Neither Tripathi nor Nene responded to a question by this writer when asked whether they considered their respective tweets and/or Facebook posts to be inflammatory or possibly fuelling tensions with potentially dangerous consequences.
However, Tripathi responded on social media to a letter that was sent to Atha Africa’s attorney by the Centre for Environmental Rights, drawing attention to Tripathi’s “inaccurate and defamatory” statements about the Centre. The Centre’s letter noted: “Particularly concerning is that some statements are threatening, and have the potential to incite violence.”
On Twitter, Tripathi accused the CER of being defamatory and of “costing South Africa tens of thousands of jobs and development opportunities” – “The responsibility sits on you,” he charged.
On 5 July, Nene posted a statement on Facebook: “If it’s war they want, it (sic) war they will get”, and added a response to several replies to this statement: “They are busy blocking development that’s suppose to change the life’s. They should just return the damn land once, & they should refrain from threatening us with civil war or economic meltdown.”
Jen Gleason of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide says attacks on people who stand up for vulnerable communities and the environment are on the rise around the world, and that her organisation works with public interest lawyers around the world who are putting themselves at risk daily.
“Powerful interests, inside and outside government, use violence, threats, prosecution, slander, regulatory burdens and more to cut off those defending human rights,” she says. This exposes grass roots advocates “to great personal risk”.
Hunter of Right2Know says it rejects the “corporate bullyism” of Atha-Africa. “We need to protect… critical voices, not just for the sake of environmental governance, but to ensure that corporations working in South Africa respect free speech and freedom of association.”
The R2K statement is now available – attached, and see here online: https://bit.ly/2mqhmYC
19 July 2018
JOINT STATEMENT: We strongly condemn attacks on civil society organisations and activists!
The undersigned organisations condemn the recent vicious attacks on environmental justice activists in South Africa.
In one case, we are outraged at the reported murder on 11 July 2018 of Mr D Mpanza, an activist who had opposed a relocation of the community in KwaDube in KwaZulu Natal. KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas has reported that people living on this land have been informed by various authorities that they must be relocated to accommodate onshore mining operations between Mthunzini and Richards Bay. According to De Haas, Mr Mpanza was shot dead, execution-style, on 11 July when travelling home from Esikhawini. Of the companions he was travelling with he alone was targeted.
In another case, we note an escalating campaign of social media attacks by those associated with an Mpumalanga mining project, on a number of South African environmental rights organisations. The campaign is led by the senior vice president of Indian-owned mining company Atha-Africa Ventures Pty Ltd, which is facing multiple legal challenges from these organisations to its applications to mine coal in a strategic water source area and protected environment in Mpumalanga.
This campaign is made up of various accusations and threats on social media which are designed to intimidate, silence and discourage activists who are lawfully opposing a coal mine in a strategic water source area and protected environment. He has publicly accused these organisations of “treason” and an “anti-national agenda”. These unfounded attacks are intolerable in our Constitutional democracy.
The South African Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right to access to justice, and the right to just administrative action. South Africa also has a long tradition of activism and civil society mobilisation to uphold our Constitution and defend Constitutional values.
More than two years have passed since cde Bazooka Rhadebe, an anti-mining activist in Xolobeni, was assassinated on the Wild Coast in 2016. To date nobody has been brought to book for his murder. Across the world, corporations have employed intimidation and violence when their commercial interests are challenged by activists, especially activists defending natural resources and environmental rights. The murder and assault of environmental activists are already common occurrences in many parts of the world.
We strongly condemn both physical and verbal attacks on civil society organisations and activists.
In the case of Mr Mpanza, we call for the speedy arrest and successful prosecution of his killers, and immediate protection for other residents who oppose the relocation in KwaDube. Furthermore we call for the authorities to give full information and participation to the community on this proposed relocation, and respect the voices of those who oppose it.
In the case of Atha-Africa, we call on the Minerals Council of South Africa (formerly the Chamber of Mines) to state publicly that it will revoke the membership of any company whose employees engage in this type of conduct. The mining authorities cannot remain silent when companies operating in South Africa unlawfully intimidate and threaten activists exercising their Constitutional rights.
For media comments contact:
Biko Mutsaurwa, R2K NWG Member: 079 915 5220
Ngazini Ngidi, R2K NWG Member: 071 105 2507
ONLINE VERSION: https://bit.ly/2mqhmYC
Note to media: Please attribute contents of this statement to the mentioned organisations not to any individuals unless you contact a spokesperson for specific comments.
 These organisations include Centre for Environmental Rights, the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, BirdLife South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), the Bench Marks Foundation and WWF South Africa.
FSE's SUBMISSION PURSUANT TO THE MINUTES OF THE FPR AND NEMLA BILL STAKEHOLDER MEETING HELD ON 24 MAY 2018
We refer to the Minutes of the Stakeholder Meeting which was held on the 24May 2018 pertaining to the proposed FPR and NEMLA Bill.
The following article has relevance to the FPR and NEMLA Bill.
The article may be opened here as a PDF document.
Original article can be found here
Financial Provisioning Regulations: Intergovernmental and Stakeholder meeting on the NEMLA Bill and proposed amendments to the Financial Provisioning Regulations
The Minutes may be opened as a PDF document.