Media release 1 February 2011
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA Jhb) supports the call for the Minister of Mineral Resources to exercise her discretion under section 49 of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 and protect certain areas from mining operations.
In a letter to the Minister ( 1 February 2011), numerous civil society organisations including ELA Jhb, the Centre for Environmental Rights, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment and WWF proposed that, in addition to areas where prospecting and mining are prohibited by law, the following areas be excluded from such mining activities. The areas are:
- Mountain catchment areas declared in terms of the Mountain Catchment Areas Act, 1970 (Act 63 of 1970), such as the Amatholes in the Eastern Cape;
- Ramsar Sites, or sites recognised under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 1971, such as Barberspan near Delareyville, Blekbospruit near Springs, the Verlorenvlei north of Lamberts Bay, Kosi Bay and the Turtle Beaches/Coral Reefs of TBay in KwaZulu-Natal, the Nylsvlei Ramsar Reserve in Limpopo;
- Recognised endangered and critically endangered ecosystems, such as Wakkerstroom-Luneberg, Mpumalanga; Chrissiesmeer, Mpumalanga; Ngoye Scarp Forest, KwaZulu-Natal; Dullstroom, Mpumalanga; Mananga Cycad Sanctuary, Mpumalanga; Umtamvuna coastal grassland, KwaZulu-Natal; Last fragments of Blesbokspruit Highveld Grasslands, Gauteng; and Kogelberg, Western Cape.
Restrictions are also proposed for prospecting and mining in areas of biodiversity and hydrological importance that are not included in the proposal for prohibitions above.
The protection of such areas are vitally important for South Africa’s long-term economic and social development. Not only are they important heritage sites, and provide vital ecological services (for example in terms of protecting fresh water resources), but they are also important for sustainable job creation initiatives, such as those related to tourism.
In the past, mining has been allowed to occur in inappropriate areas with devastating consequences (see Outcome 10 Delivery Agreement, extract below). All too often, mining companies fail to take account of the costs of rehabilitating areas after mining and preventing pollution during the mining operation. In addition, the government appears to lack the ability to make mining companies abide by existing laws and regulations designed to protect our environmental resources. For example, it appears that since the mid-1990s successive owners of Grootvlei Mine in Gauteng have been allowed to discharge millions of litres of acid mine drainage into a stream that flows into an internationally important wetland area. (For more about Grootvlei see: Toxic mine water and human rights violations on the East Rand)
Note: The Outcome 10 Delivery Agreement produced by the Department of Environmental affairs (September 2010), “To ensure that environmental assets and natural resources are well protected and continually enhanced”.
Output 4.3. Sustainable environmental management, sub-output 4: “Management of environmental impacts from mining and related activities contains the following statement: “The inability of the current spatial planning and land use management system to integrate mineral development has resulted in the latter occurring in areas where it permanently sterilised areas of high agricultural potential or impacted severely on sensitive and prioritised ecosystems.”
Download a copy of the letter to DMR: CER Letter to Minister Shabangu re MPRDA s49 – 1 Feb 2011