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.

The organisers say “The conference is structured in such a manner that knowledge transfer remains central to the event, thereby equipping the delegate toward decisions and actions which might need to be taken in 2015”. 

CEO, Mariette Liefferink’s presentation is available to download (about 10mb). 

The presentation focused on the perspective of civil society on environmental problems, opportunities and solutions. 

Water quality and quantity remains of the highest concern.  Liefferink states that water allocation or use is flowing from agriculture to mining and that mines have the biggest impact on water quality.  This is a threat to the national resource that cannot be brushed away. 

Challenges include  – 

  • Water resources are fully developed with all available water being highly utilised
  • Arid climate, unfavourably topography, sandy rivers
  • Implementation of the water reserve is expected to result in serious deficits in some of the main river catchments
  • Planning has been made for large new mining developments for which additional water will be required
  • Severe eutrophication problems at dams
  • Water pollution owing to large quantities of effluent discharged into the rivers in urban and industrial areas

Minister Edna Molewa states that the ecological reserve in rivers provides protection of water resources by apportioning an agreed amount of the water available in a system to maintain the natural environment in some pre-agreed condition. To fulfil its purpose, this water needs to be of an appropriate volume and quality, and be available at the appropriate time of the year. 

On Acid Mine Drainage, Liefferink highlighted the finding of the Water Research Council, and quoted “This suggests a failure on the part of those agencies responsible for he enforcement of existing regulations and is an unacceptable situation, bearing in mind that the source water from the survey area impacts directly upon …a national water resource.”

Liefferink concluded with solutions which might address the problems identified.  These included – 

  • Internalisation of externalities
  • Implementation of Regional Mine Closure Strategies e.g. Blyvooruitzicht Mine.
  • Moratorium on mining in high biodiversity sensitive areas, wetlands, FEPA (Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas) rivers and pans.
  • Rehabilitation to ensure viable and sustainable post closure land uses.
  • Sufficient rehabilitation funds to address the life time of the impacts (residual and latent impacts)
  • Pro-active management of flooding and possible decant.
  • Enforcement of contraventions of environmental laws, legally binding WULs and EMPRs and “polluter pays principle”.

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