Reclamation of Mine Residue Areas for Development Purposes

The FSE has commented on Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s project to reclaim mine residue areas for future development purposes.

“If we were to judge the future environmental impacts of the reclamation of tailings dams grounded upon the current environmental impacts and management of the reclamation of tailings dams, we have reason for serious concern.”

The management of environmental impacts during the reclamation of historic tailings dams is poor. There are regular infringements by the operating mines of legally binding Environmental Management Programme Reports (EMPR) and non-enforcement of these environmental contraventions by the relevant organs of state. Monitoring of compliance has been cheaply outsourced to civil society and NGOs who are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of environmental infractions.
Footprints of re-mined tailings disposal facilities and re-mining operations are not fenced off and no warning signs are erected. Unauthorised entry onto mining sites and the removal of uraniferous tailings and radioactive infrastructure or scrap metal for construction material are common.

No buffer zones to human settlement, cropping and grazing have been defined and legally enforced around tailings dams, footprints of reclaimed tailings dams and residual contamination or for the uses of contaminated water (discharge, polluted streams and groundwater) for crop irrigation. Informal settlements, low cost housing and household food gardens are erected upon unrehabilitated footprints of re-mined tailings dams, exposing residents to elevated levels of toxic and radioactive heavy metals, including radon and radon gas. These  residents are particularly vulnerable since they belong to sub-population groups with high HIV/Aids and chronic and acute malnutrition.”

To read the full comment, download the document here. (791kb)

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