As you are aware, amendments have been proposed to the Financial Provisioning Regulations, 2015 which substantially change the amended version that was gazetted for comment in November 2017, and discussed in the stakeholder workshops held since the release of the November 2017 version and the 2nd half of 2018. The proposed amendments were gazetted on Friday 7 May 2019, and a period of 45 days have been allowed in which to received inputs and comments.
In order to explain the rational for the changes and to provide a platform for further engagement before the close of the comment period, the Department will hold a stakeholder workshop as indicated below:
Date: 12th June 2019
Venue: To be confirmed but will be held in central Pretoria
Time: 8h30 – 12h30
The gazetted regulations can be downloaded from the Departments website at: https://www.environment.gov.za/
We look forward to engaging with you further on these important regulations at this planned workshop.
New statistics released in Parliament show that 118 mines around South Africa are polluting rivers, inadequately testing for contamination or otherwise dirtying South Africa’s waterways.
The figures, released by the minister of water and sanitation, Gugile Nkwinti, also show that 115 mines are known to be operating without proper water permits. This represents a significant increase from 2014, when the South African Human Rights Commission found 39 mines to be noncompliant.
Violators are spread across every province and include major corporations such as AngloGold Ashanti, De Beers, Glencore and Anglo American Platinum.
In response to parliamentary questions posed by Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts, the minister released the data, compiled by the department, in April.
It showed that during the past financial year, more than 15% of the 712 mines licensed to use or to have an effect on water sources had failed to comply with the water-use licences that stipulate the conditions of that usage.
Asked what steps would be taken to address the deficiencies, Nkwinti responded: “It is not clear why transgressors resort to operation of mines without the requisite authorisation; however, the department continues to intensify activities to protect the water resources, as mandated by the National Water Act.”
Alberts told Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism that he had referred the list of transgressions, which covers the years 2015 to 2018, to the department’s Blue Scorpions regulatory unit. This is the group tasked with finding people who break water law, and fining them.
“Even though mines are a part of our economy, we need to find a balance between just getting the profits out of the ground and leaving nature spoiled and people who live there becoming sick,” said Alberts.
The data covers a wide range of permit violations: polluted water discharged directly into the environment, waste piles contaminating groundwater, unlined wastewater retention ponds, oil spills, insufficient monitoring, excessive dewatering of the underground void and poor record-keeping.
As climate change continues to worsen South Africa’s water security, the mining industry’s number of water-related infractions is rising.
In 2017-2018, the department found 10 more mines significantly out of compliance with their water-use permits than the year before, and 38 more than in 2015-2016.
Much of the mining negatively affecting water is in the coalfields of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, which ranked first and second, respectively, in the number of mines out of compliance with their water-use licences.
Saul Roux, a science and policy specialist at the nonprofit legal group Centre for Environmental Rights, said acid mine drainage poses mining’s most significant threat to clean water resources. Coal mining on the Highveld overlaps with large portions of the country’s 22 designated strategic water-source areas, which provide 60% of all South Africans with water, he said. “Our scarce water resources are affected throughout the coal life cycle, including direct effects on water quality during coal mining, effects of air pollutants on water resources and coal ash contamination of groundwater,” Roux said.
But companies’ responses to questions about the data highlighted the disorganisation in the government bureaucracy meant to police them. In recent years, the department has had only 35 compliance and enforcement officials to cover the entire country. This is according to a report by the South African Water Caucus, a group of nongovernmental organisations and trade unions set up to study water use.
The data listed elevated levels of pollutants at Glencore’s Mpumalanga mines, for example, but company spokesperson Lerato Setsiba said the department had not informed the company of the infraction.
“Glencore has an extensive water-monitoring network on all sites where water qualities are measured every month and investigations are conducted on any exceedance of water quality,” Setsiba said in a statement.
Other major mining companies also defended their infractions.
Anglo American Platinum’s spokesperson, Jana Marais, responded to the findings that several of its mines, including the Twickenham Platinum Mine in Mpumalanga, discharged polluted water. She said the company was spending millions of rand on upgrading water infrastructure at the mine and that an external audit had found higher compliance with water permits than the department found.
Chris Nthite, AngloGold’s representative, said the company was aware of the listed violations — which included waste spillages, stormwater management issues and unauthorised water use — and had addressed them. “[AngloGold] has offered measures to remedy any problem, or has not been contacted further.”
The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, did not respond to requests for comment on why the department allowed mining companies to continue operating with outstanding infractions.
Neither did the department of mineral resources. Its spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi, instead referred questions about potential inter-agency co-operation in the policing of mining companies back to the water department.
With water pollution continuing largely unchecked, environmental activists have taken to the courts to protect water resources in both the coalfields and gold-mining basins.
Mariette Liefferink, chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said her group is in the process of filing litigation against the ministers of water and sanitation and of mineral resources, among other parties, for their role in the environmental catastrophe unfolding at the Mintails SA gold mines on the West Rand.
A parliamentary inquiry revealed late last year that the government allowed mining to continue at Mintails after mine waste spilt into waterways and children had drowned in open mining pits.
This inquiry also revealed that the company’s liabilities ran to R460-million — that is the amount of money the company would require to repair all the damage to the environment.
In the 2015-2016 period, Mintails complied with less than a quarter of its water-use licence requirements, according to the data released in Parliament.
With the company liquidated, mining at the operations near Krugersdorp have largely halted and any proceeds are flowing back to investors in London.
“There is a significant lack of political will, which means polluters can continue with impunity to ignore directives,” Liefferink said. — oxpeckers.org
This report was sponsored by #MineAlert and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa
DOCUMENTS SUPPORTING THIS ARTICLE HAVE BEEN ATTACHED.
Please see attached Financial Provisioning Notice. Comments are due 45 days from the date of publication (Notice published on 17 May 2019).
The FSE April Report is attached for download.
The FSE recently presented a keynote address at the Australian Centre of Geomechanics’ 22nd International Conference on Paste and Tailings.
Please find attached hereto the programme and the FSE’s sample paper.
SUCCESS: ATHA’S PETITION TO THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL FOR LEAVE (PERMISSION) TO APPEAL THE PROTECTED AREAS JUDGEMENT DENIED!
The High Court, in January 2019, dismissed Atha’s application for leave to appeal. Atha petitioned the SCA for leave to appeal the Protected Areas judgement that was obtained in the High Court in November, 2018 by a Coalition of NGOs, of which the FSE is a party to.
The SCA dismissed Atha’s petition for leave to appeal, with costs. This means that Atha doesn’t have permission to appeal the Protected Areas judgement and is required to pay the costs incurred in opposing the petition. The Court Order is attached.
The judgment secured in November 2018 remains intact.
For background: In 19 March 2019 the CER on behalf of the Coalition lodged the Coalition’s answering affidavit to Atha’s petition with the SCA. Attached is the affidavit. Atha was entitled to reply to the Coalition’s answering affidavit by 2 April 2019, but they did not exercise that right.
The report is attached for download.
Summary of water quantity and quality challenges within the Vaal River system grounded upon the information which was presented by the Department of Water and Sanitation's Directorate: National water resource planning to the strategy steering Committee (SSC) for the continuation of the integrated Vaal River system.
Reconciliation Strategy Guide – PHASE 2 attached for download.
Find the following documents attached for donwload: