Water News

Mariette Liefferink

Mariette Liefferink

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) has appealed the environmental authorisation for the expansion of the mining operations of Pilanesberg Platinum Mines within a highest biodiversity sensitive area and a national freshwater ecosystem priority area, which the FSE alleges, will adversely impact on the functionality and viability of the proposed Heritage Park.  

It is envisioned that the proposed Heritage Park will establish the third largest conservation estate of about 270 000ha to ultimately create a migratory corridor for bigger mammals by combining the Pilanesberg National Park with the  Madikwe Game Reserve.

The world has become sober to the unimaginable power of uranium after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and recently, Fukushima.
A new set of serious health problems, collectively known as Gulf War Syndrome, and epidemiological data from the Wismut cohort have become available to researchers.

Saturday, 22 August 2015 17:25

DWS is not compliant on AMD

Mariette Lierfferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment states that while the Department of Water and Sanitation alleges that the Acid Mine Drainage situation is no longer a reason for concern, the investigation report by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) adduces evidence to the contrary.

In April 2015 we were informed of the EIA/EMP report for the proposed changes to surface infrastructure at Pilanesberg Platinum Mine (DREAD REF: NWP/EIA/88/2011.  DEA REF NO: 12/9/11/L750/7).

Sunday, 19 July 2015 07:25

Comment: Sedibelo Platinum Mine

The Applicant is Itereleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources (Pty) Ltd (Ibmr), now Pilanesberg Platinum Mine (PPM). On the 13th of February 2014, ministerial consent was granted in terms of Section 11 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 28 of 2002, ceding the IBMR Mining Right to PPM.

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment's (FSE) position on the re-mining and consolidation of  poorly managed, poorly constructed and poorly monitored historical tailings storage facilities, which are significant sources of water and windblown dust pollution,  has been published in a number of academic papers, government reports and comments and response reports.

Monday, 09 March 2015 21:55

2014 Annual Report

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

Wednesday, 25 February 2015 10:37

January 2015 Report

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment continues to engage on Pilansberg issues, including sense of place, water, compliance, mining, eco-tourism, tourism, enviornmental management framework, biodiversity and regional impacts.  

Monday, 15 December 2014 20:57

Water Sector - leadership group meeting

Ms Margaret-Ann Diedricks Director General of the Department of Water and Sanitation presented the strategic objectives for the coming 5 years and the reflection of the Water and Sanitation Summit Declaration and Outcomes.

Thursday, 27 November 2014 06:36

ENVASS Conference

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment addressed the ENVASS conference in October.  The conference is promoted as "one of a kind" and attempts to cover the most pertinent environmental matters applicable to the South African industry.

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SA NEWS

BUSINESS DAY EXCLUSIVE: Liquidation allows Mintails to shirk environmental liabilities

21 August 2018 - 05:04 Mark Olalde   Pollution: Water resource management consultant Anthony Turton, with the Mintails gold plants and water treatment tanks in the background. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/FREDDY MAVUNDA Mintails Mining and several related companies have announced their liquidation, throwing into question the environmental rehabilitation of highly polluting operations near Johannesburg. Mintails mines and processes gold from a sprawling 1,715ha complex of waste piles and open pits in Krugersdorp and has for years been flagged for noncompliance. Its operations are bordered by informal settlements and suburbs housing thousands of residents, many of whom have complained of health effects, which they blame on radioactive dust and water pollution from Mintails’ mines. Records show that the cost to clean up the environment would be about R330m, but there is only R25.6m available. Observers fear that the situation could deteriorate further, as happened at the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, an abandoned large-scale operation on the West Rand. A case study in the country’s deeply flawed mine closure system, Mintails teetered on the verge of collapse for years and entered business rescue in October 2015. Mariette Liefferink, the activist CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, tracked Mintails for more than a decade and is now working to intercede in the liquidation proceedings as the legal voice for what she labels the "mute environment". "There was poor planning. [Mintails’] due diligence was flawed. They overestimated the gold grade and the resource that could be reclaimed. "They continued to exploit the resource, to reclaim only the profitable parts and never top up the financial provisions," Liefferink says. As the company slips into liquidation, it passes the brunt of its environmental liability to taxpayers and, to an extent, to other mining companies. After Mintails fought for nearly three years to save the company, business rescue practitioner Dave Lake notified the Johannesburg high court in early August of his intention to liquidate the company. Provisional liquidation was granted on August 17 and a liquidator is expected to be appointed soon. THERE IS NO LONGER A REASONABLE PROSPECT OF RESCUING THE COMPANY. The business rescue plan called for the refurbishment of a gold ore processing plant but, according to a memo dated August 1 that Lake sent to the court and to affected parties, it failed when multiple investors ceased funding Mintails. "There is no longer a reasonable prospect of rescuing the company," the memo read. The liquidator will now decide how to pay back creditors with the remaining assets. Environmentalists fear this process could leave environmental liabilities low on the list of what deserves money. According to the business rescue plan, written in December 2016, Mintails owed various creditors more than R1bn, including a shortfall of about R300m in reclamation funding. Due to a web of involved companies, it remains unclear if a large portion of the already insufficient financial provisions can be accessed for environmental cleanup. DRDGold formerly held one of the mining rights and the corresponding trust fund, which are now in the Mintails group. DRDGold CEO Niël Pretorius says he believes that the trust fund contained R18m but he did not identify the trustees, whose consent is vital to unlocking the money. Documents show the Mintails group acknowledged that rehabilitation would probably cost between R300m and R336.5m, but it declined to top up financial provisions. According to the environmental management programme from one of Mintails’ mining rights: "These liabilities are also historic and predate Mintails’ involvement and should thus not be for Mintails’ account." Experts debate this narrow interpretation of the law. Lake wrote in the business rescue plan: "The Mintails group’s rehabilitation liabilities have remained largely unfunded for some time, and there are simply no free funds available to the [business rescue practitioner] to enable him to immediately provide such funding." Legal Resources Centre attorney Lucien Limacher is representing the Federation for a Sustainable Environment. "This is a trend that has been occurring for a couple of years where mining companies have undertaken a business rescue plan or have applied for liquidation because they have failed to really look after the rehabilitation fund," he says. The Legal Resources Centre sent letters to several government agencies, including the department of mineral resources, the department of water & sanitation and the department of energy, asking them to intervene in the situation and threatening to pursue legal action if the department of mineral resources fails to act. Department of water & sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau says they are "engaging Mintails so that the immediate measures can be put into place to ensure water resources protection. A longer-term plan is required to ensure rehabilitation of the mining-impacted areas." Lake declines to answer questions about the failed business rescue and the liquidation but he wrote for Moneyweb in January 2017 and laid out his argument for Mintails’ use of business rescue: "Mintails was sick – but it wasn’t terminal." Now the situation has become what Liefferink calls "pass the parcel", with Mintails playing the part of a "scavenger company", a term coined by researchers to describe under-resourced outfits that buy the scraps left over from larger mining companies and ultimately abandon them. Large gold, coal and platinum mines rarely, if ever, properly close in SA and there wasn’t one large-scale mine in Gauteng that achieved full, legal closure between 2011 and 2016. Mintails’ case will not affect the law that ring-fences financial assurances for reclamation, Limacher says. "But it is precedent-setting in that mines might now start applying for liquidation to avoid paying the cost of rehabilitation." Mintails’ West Rand concessions came in part from DRDGold, which also remines waste piles, and from Mogale Gold, which was in judicial management when Mintails acquired it in 2006. Since then, Mintails engaged in a pattern of environmental degradation. For example, the department of water & sanitation found in an August 2014 inspection that Mintails transported "slurry/sludge" in unlined trenches, completed insufficient monitoring, spilled slurry from pipelines and implemented no storm water management system at a pollution control dam. In December 2016, polluted runoff from waste piles was found to be seeping through a dam wall into the Wonderfonteinspruit, which has immediate downstream agricultural uses in the community of Kagiso. Now it will largely be up to the liquidator and regulators to protect the environment and public health. "That is the pattern that seems to be followed in the gold mining industry, and, I assume, would be followed in the coal and platinum mining industries, as well. "As soon as a mine is no longer very profitable, it transfers its assets," Liefferink says. "That seems to have the tacit support of the department of mineral resources." However, the department of mineral resources sent a statement that reads: "The department will engage with the appointed provisional liquidators with the intention to safeguard the environmental and social responsibilities." Mintails former CEO Johan Moolman declined to comment except to say he quit on June 26 when he learned a new investor had bought the company. Mvest Capital agreed to purchase Mintails from Paige, a vehicle of the UK-based Harbour family, with the understanding that Mvest would inject R30m into the beleaguered company to stimulate the business rescue plan. Mvest decided against handing over the full amount, paying only R5.5m. Mvest director Matthew Moodley acknowledges the initial agreement and the R5.5m. He says that after a month it became apparent the deal would require more investment to succeed. "With the increased need for working capital in July, Mvest took a decision to withdraw from the transaction," Moodley says, adding that Mvest did not "conclude a transaction with Paige". Liefferink says these companies are all "jumping from a sinking ship". She fears Mintails will go the way of the abandoned Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, which was once one of the country’s most productive gold operations and is now a source of pollution, violent illegal mining gangs and headaches for adjacent mines. Mintails has followed a strikingly similar pattern. In the Blyvooruitzicht case, two companies, DRDGold and Village Main Reef, almost completed a business deal to sell the nearly exhausted mine and both walked away, claiming the other carried responsibility. "That whole area, just like Blyvooruitzicht, will be left like it is," Liefferink said. While neighbouring mining companies will probably have to pump water from the void in Mintails’ absence, the consequences of "the dust fallout and the toxic water in the river systems" will be carried by communities and by the municipality. oxpeckers.org Additional reporting by #MineAlert manager Tholakele Nene https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/companies/mining/2018-08-21-liquidation-allows-mintails-to-shirk-environmental-liabilities/

Polluted lives: The cost of South Africa's gold rush

Johannesburg in South Africa has one of the world's largest gold deposits. After decades of mining, large swathes of the population are thought to be exposed to toxic and radioactive mine waste. The BBC's Sophie Ribstein went to meet people living close to the dumps to find out what effect it is having on their health. Filmed and edited by Christian Parkinson.

NPC Pathways for a Just Transitions- Broader Stakeholder Workshop Invite 16 August 2018

Dear Colleague 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. Attached to this article please find the Briefing Note, chapter 5 of the National Development Plan which we hope you will be able to read before the workshop and a programme for the day.  Kind regards, Megan Hendrickse Admin Assistant Sustainable Energy Africa NPC 9b Bell Crescent Close Westlake Cape Town 7945 e:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. t:+27 217023622 m:+27 713149861 website: www.sustainable.org.za www.cityenergy.org.za www.africancityenergy.org.za Sustainable Energy Africa is a not-for-profit organization supporting cities and other institutions with sustainable energy transitions

Attacks on activists

  See below an article that appeared in GroundUp, the Daily Maverick and The Citizen yesterday about recent attacks on activists in South Africa. Coal mine opponents targeted on social media 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. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-07-24-coal-mine-opponents-targeted-on-social-media/ 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.”

WATER

Water Crisis

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). The rest of the Document may be opened as a PDF document.

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