The Green Scorpions have hauled three directors of Blyvooruitzicht and Village Main Reef gold mining companies to court for alleged significant pollution and environmental degradation.
If convicted, the trio, Dalubuhle Ncube, Paul Mariius Saalman and Mark Burrell, could face maximum penalties of up to R10 million in fines and / or a 10 year jail term.
They appeared in the regional court in Merafong, on the West Rand, on Tuesday following a three year investigation by the Green Scorpions that could set a “game changing” precedent for the responsibilities of mining directors who apply to liquidate mines but “leave polluted sites” in their wake.
In February 2014 the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) opened a criminal case against the directors of DRDGold and its operator, Village Main Reef, wit the Carltonville police.
“The FSE eagerly awaits the judgement which may establish an important, long-awaited and much-needed legal precedent,”said spokesperson Mariette Liefferink.
“This is regarding the duties, the responsibilities and liabilities of directors of mining companies, who apply for liquidation and wining up but leave n their wake ecologically and geophysically unstable and polluted sites, which impose economic, social and evnironmenral liabilities upon local communities, neighbouring mines, future generations and the State.”
The State argues how the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act states the holder of a mining right, or previous owners of an old order right, remains responsible for any environmental liability, pollution, ecological degradation, compliance to the conditions of the environmental authorisation and the management and sustainable closure certificate in terms of this act to the holder or owner concerned.
Blyvoor placed itself under provisional liquidation in June 2011 while Village Main acquired the majority interest in Blyvoor from DRDGold during 2012.
Village Main suspended its financial assistance and Blyvoor was issued with a notice of intention to issue a directive under the National Water Act.
The charges included their alleged failure to clean up the tailings spillages “even after being instructed to do do”.
“The disposal of tailings material into the public domain results in radioactivity doses that exceed both the public dose limit for a single operator (0.25mSv or sievert) per year and from all sources 1mSv per annum for the next 60 years.
“This contaminated soil / tailings material, as a pollution source, exposes current and future generations of the public to unnecessary radiological hazards and may even result in the loss of land use for decades to come.
“Any person convicted of an offence in terms of this section is liable to a fine not exceeding R10 million or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
From June to October 2014, the directors allegedly failed to implement dust management measures “even after being directed to do so and exceeded the dust fall standards”.
“A dust fallout concentration of 2776mg/m2/per day was observed with a permissible concentration of less than 600mg/m2/ per day.”
This also carries a R10 million fine, a 10-year jail sentence or both.
The State accuses the trio of not reworking or rehabilitating slimes dams and failure to “manage all environmental impacts in accordance with the approved environmental management programme”.
It also lists the failure to annually assess environmental liability and increase financial provision.
“The accused were instructed to submit strategies to prevent or to minimise environmental impact, clean up tailings and spillages and to indicate measures to prevent recurrence to ensure all reasonable measures to prevent pollution from occurring.
“The accused failed to comply with these.”
It notes how the Department of Mineral Resources estimated the environmental liability to be R142 million based on the revised EMP submitted on December 14, 2012.
“The accused were informed in a letter dated August 2, 2013 that there was a shortfall of R107 million.
“The accused never provided the said shortfall.”
The other charges include the failure to apply a closure certificate and submit a closure plan as well as the failure to apply for environmental liabilities to be transferred to a competent person.
Kenny Oldwage, an advocate who is representing the Blyvoor directors, could not comment this week.