Over the past years we have had the pleasure of watching a greater measure transparency, honesty and openness in the mining industry and the publishing of Regulations calling for easier access by the public to Environmental Management Programme Reports, Audit Reports, Water Use Licenses, closure plans and financial provisions.
We participated in the drafting of government policies and strategies pertaining to mine water and waste management, the determination of resource quality objectives and reconciliation strategies for important water management areas during 2016. We refer to the abovementioned section for a more detailed discussion on these matters.
While the environmental and socio-economic impacts upon mining affected communities remain very challenging and the obstacles to environmental and social justice are many, we witnessed during 2016 the establishment and implementation of grievance mechanisms, procurement and recruitment opportunities and active engagements with mining affected communities, and honest disclosure of water and dust monitoring results by Gold Fields’ South Deep Mine and the facilitation of tours by Sibanye Gold of their operations within the West Rand goldfields in order for interested and affected parties to witness first-hand the legacy of gold mining, the impacts and challenges.
We are deeply grateful for the expert and pro bono assistance of environmental lawyers and advocates, such as Adv. Peter Lazarus and public law firms, such as the Centre for Environmental Rights and the Legal Resources Centre; the sponsoring of flights by Bataleurs; the in depth research and publication of valuable academic papers by academics with impeccable credentials such as Prof Bonny Dotcherty of the Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, Prof Tracy Humby of the Wits School of Law, Prof Elize van Eeden of the North West University, etc. on issues of concern to the FSE.
Applying the “opportunity cost” principle places a positive duty upon the decision makers to consider if proposed mining developments in high and highest biodiversity important areas constitute the best use of the resources (i.e. the best practicable environmental option).
If we, as a country, are to mine all minerals in the ground, then there should be no regard for the environment since all of South Africa, as a resource rich country, will in any event be mined. If, however, not all minerals are to be mined and some will be left in the ground, then a decision on which areas to mine and the areas in which to leave the minerals in the ground, should be made.
It is our submission that the first scenario is not sustainable and should thus never be an option.
Read the full report by downloading the PDF version.