The Department of Mineral Resources tabled a report to the Committee on the progress that had been made regarding derelict and ownerless mines (D&O mines). It was explained that the problem dated back to 1903, and ran until 2004, when the matter began to be addressed. D&O mines were defined as mines 'whose owners are not operating nor maintaining and who cannot be traced'. The Department was attempting to find the owners, and where they were found, the Department would attempt to enforce the law against them. The environmental and safety impacts of the D&O mines were vast and far-reaching. The Department had developed a database, had begun rehabilitation, had assessed its financial requirements and had identified sites, and then prioritised those posing an immediate threat to communities. These were the asbestos sites and the openings, trenches and shafts in the
Members asked about the role of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, particularly in regard to acid mine drainage, asked about the pumping of water into Blesbok River, the rising levels of water in the Central Basin and how the problem of water ingress could be mitigated, as well as what processes were available. Members commented that different figures had been given for the rising daily rate of water. Members asked whether the water from the mines was potable, sought clarity on the pumping and selling of water, and the sums of money required. Members asked for further clarity on the task team, the time frames, and whether the industry had been called in to assist. They stressed that government alone could not bear the responsibility of putting the problems right. Further clarity was sought on decanting, especially the canals, unsafe sinkholes and how far communities were living from the water-affected areas. They enquired how many owners had been traced, whether the Department had capacity to deal with all the issues, whether it had the necessary plant and equipment, and what was being done currently to address illegal mining and lack of water licences.
Derelict and ownerless mines: Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Progress Report and Implementation Plans
Ms Ntokozo Ngcwabe, Chief Director: Mining and Mineral Policy, Department of Mineral Resources, tabled the report of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR or the Department) on the progress that had been made in regard to derelict and owner less mines, together with the Department's implementation plan.
She outlined that the history of the legacy dated back to 1903 and ran right through to 2004. She tabled the
The history of the legacy of derelict and ownerless (D&O) mines had its roots in the Mines and Works Act of 1956 and the Minerals Act of 1991. The definition of D&O mines were mines 'whose owners are not operating nor maintaining and who cannot be traced'. She added that where the owners had been found, the law was being enforced.
She said that the environmental impacts related to D&O mines were vast. The problems included air pollution, groundwater pollution, surface water pollution, health and safety issues, and damage to sensitive environments, and there were impacts on heritage resources as well as impacts on present and future land-use.
The DMR had developed a database on D&O mines, and the implementation of rehabilitation had already begun. There had also been an assessment of financial requirements. With the database of D&O mines having been set up, about 6 152 sites had been identified. She noted that the database was noted to be dynamic and sites posing an immediate threat to communities had been prioritised for action. These sites were the asbestos sites and the openings, trenches and shafts in the
She noted that R30 billion was necessary for dealing with D&O mines, and that this figure was not a static one but one that needed to be reviewed regularly.
Ms Ngcwabe then outlined the rehabilitation achievements since 1994, in respect of the asbestos mines, gold mines and coal mines (see attached presentation for full details).
Ms Ngcwabe then moved on to describe matters around the closure of trenches and shafts in the
She noted that the DMR's implementation plan was to be seen as a medium to long term or ten year implementation plan. A review would be done on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) basis, as well as after ten years. There would be three phases for implementation. Phase 1 would cover the period 2010-2013, Phase 2 would cover 2013-2016 and Phase 3 would cover 2016- 2020.
Ms Ngcwabe said that the estimated cost for the ten year plan would be R1,46 billion, without taking inflation into account. However, she stressed that the situation around D&O mines dated back and related to 349 years of damage, and that dialogue on funding options was necessary.
Ms Ngcwabe said that there was no danger of an imminent “horror show” and that the DMR was monitoring the situation.
Adv H Schmidt (DA) referred to the four basins and noted that in the
Adv Schmidt was concerned about water that was being pumped into
Adv Schmidt was also concerned about the rising levels of water in the
Adv Schmidt added that the industry had made concrete proposals to the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, but that latter department had seemingly made little attempt to address the problem until a few months ago, when it finally acted on the proposals that had been made by the industry.
Adv Schmidt wanted to know what the DMR had meant by the “processes” referred to in the presentation. Adv Schmidt asked how much water ingress would reduce the problem and he sought clarity on how much could be mitigated. He also wanted to know if there were alternative methods in terms of process treatment.
Adv Schmidt was concerned about the three different figures that had been presented for the daily rate of rising water in the
Mr V Magagula (ANC) wanted to know if the water from the derelict mines was fit for drinking purposes.
Ms Ngcwabe noted that the correct hydrogen/iron concentration (PH) balance for drinking water was 7, which was a neutral level. Anything below PH 7 was considered as acidic, and was not fit for drinking purposes. She said that the DMR would pump acidic water and treat it with lime to make it fit for human consumption.
Mr Magagula sought clarity on the pumping and selling of water, especially to communities. He was concerned that people in communities would be of the stance that water could not be sold.
Mr Nyekembe sought further clarity on the task team that had been put into place.
Mr E Nyekembe (ANC) welcomed the progress that the DMR had made until now. However, he was concerned about the capacity of the DMR for the implementation process. Mr Nyekembe also wanted to know from where the DMR would draw its resources.
Adv Sandile Nogxina, Director General, Department of Mineral Resources, said that a collaborative and inter ministerial Committee had been formed, with a technical Task Team. This Team comprised representatives from the Council for Geoscience (CGS), Mintek, the Water Research Council and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The Task Team had been given six weeks to devise a plan. The issue of capacity would also be addressed by the inter-ministerial Task Team.
Mr Nyekembe sought clarity on to which extent the mining industry was involved in addressing these problems, adding that he thought that the DMR should be calling in the industry’s resources as well.
Mr Nyekembe was concerned about the large sum of money that was needed to address the problems at hand.
Mr C Gololo (ANC) thanked the DMR for the commitment that this Department had shown, and wished it well in its endeavours.
Mr Gololo noted that the media had “switched on a panic button” in regard to acid mine water drainage. Even though the DMR wanted people to believe that everything was under control, he was still concerned that there would be serious problems. He advised the DMR not to be complacent but to push forward as hard as it could to address the problems.
Mr Gololo noted that
Mr Gololo sought clarification on the decanting process, especially relating to the canals.
Ms J Ngele (ANC) wanted to know how far communities were living from the water-affected areas. She also referred to Carltonville, were houses had once sunk.
Dr Thibedi Ramontja, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Geoscience, confirmed that the water-affected areas were close to community settlements, especially in the
Mr M Sonto (ANC) wanted to know how many of the owners of the derelict mines had been traced thus far.
Ms Ngcwabe said that thus far, 100 had been traced, and that the DMR was in the process of calling those owners in to account. DMR was prepared to take the matter to litigation.
Mr Sonto sought clarity on what the DMR had done to rebut sensationalism about the issues. He knew that pamphlets had been distributed to affected communities.
Ms Ngcwabe agreed that there had been distributions of pamphlets in the local languages, to various areas, and that there had also been a public awareness campaign where the word had been spread through children in the schools.
Adv Nogxina added that the inter-ministerial Task Team also had a communication strategy, and that it was currently doing risk re-appraisal. A summit would also be held in the near future.
Mr Sonto was concerned whether the DMR had all the necessary and relevant equipment to deal with the issues.
Ms Ngcwabe noted that part of the bigger plan was to take stock of what was readily available, in terms of plant and equipment.
Adv Schmidt was concerned about time frames for addressing the issues pertaining to D&O mines.
Adv Nogxina noted that time frames were to be set by the inter-ministerial Task Team.
Adv Schmidt noted that mining had been taking place without water licenses. In regard to the illegal mining that was taking place, he wanted to know what the DMR was currently doing to prevent and address the illegal activity.
Ms Ngcwabe said that the DMR had been engaging in discussions regarding the water licenses. She made reference to fragmentation between departments as another area of concern.
Mr Gololo wanted to know if the DMR had the technology to treat sea water as well.
Dr Ramontja said that sea water could be treated and that there was active technology available for that.
The Chairperson wanted to know what role the mining industry would play.
Ms Ngcwabe noted that there was engagement with the industry.
The Chairperson said that government alone could not bear the responsibility for D&O mines.
The meeting was adjourned.
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