THE CRIMINAL investigation and the draft charges initiated against Village Main Reef for alleged contraventions of environmental legislation at Blyvooruitzicht (Blyvoor) mine outside Carletonville are among many legacy issues facing the mining industry today.
So said Village chief executive Ferdi Dieppenaar last week, who noted that Blyvoor’s pollution went back before Village’s involvement at the mine and continued afterwards.
Village had only operated Blyvoor for about 14 months, from May 2012 to July 2013, before the company pulled the plug on the mineâ€™s funding as the weak gold price and rising costs made the operation unsustainable.
Village took over Blyvoor from DRDGold, and the mine has been acquired by Goldrich Holdings, whose directors include President Jacob Zumaâ€™s nephew Khulubuse Zuma, Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa Mandela and Thulani Ngubane.
Under Goldrich Blyvoor has collapsed, and reports say illegal miners are being killed amid mine stripping.
“As far as I am aware, there was one incident where we experienced slimes spillage in the metallurgical plant area during the time that Village managed and operated Blyvoor as contractors,” Dippenaar said.
He said the management of the mine had cleaned up the spillage and informed the relevant parties at the time.
“In my opinion, the remedial activities actually improved the environment in the area at the time.
“Earlier in the year we became aware of complaints of pollution in that area.
“We were approached by the Green Scorpions in what can only be described as a meet-and-greet session, in which we discussed our involvement in Blyvoor. “
Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE), laid criminal charges against the directors and operators of the Blyvoor mine on behalf of the FSE.
“The charges against the accused in this matter relate to contraventions of specific environmental duties of care, air quality and waste-related infringements,” Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Albi Modise said last week.
He added that while the Department of Environmental Affairs was not the sector leader when it came to mining-related matters, its involvement in Blyvoor was as a result of the â€œstandard operating procedure that exists between the department and the SAPS, which facilitates the investigation of those matters that cut across various environmental mediaâ€ by the inspectorate known as the Green Scorpions .
In its preliminary annual results earlier last week, Village had, as part of its contingent liabilities, disclosed the litigation based on alleged pollution from tailings streams at Blyvoor.
If found guilty, Modise said, â€œthe National Environmental Management Act, together with the specific Environmental Management Acts, make provision for significant penalties to be imposedâ€.
“These penalties range from 10 years imprisonment per offence to fines of up to R10 million per charge being imposed,” he said.