The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) spoke about derelict and ownerless mines and what government was doing with these mines. The objectives of the management of the derelict and ownerless mine sites is to address public health and safety impacts and environmental impacts on both surface and ground water and air quality. The site distribution of derelict and ownerless mine shows 5 976 such mines with the Northern Cape having the highest number (1 065) followed by the North West (1 040) and the Free State has the lowest number (229). The breakdown of the figures showed 192 high priority mines, 183 moderate priority, 378 low priority and 2 876 of these mines did not need rehabilitation. There is no access to 1 347 and 1 000 are still fully operational.
DMR outlined the projects and their costs for implementation of the recommendations of Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Acid Mine Drainage which were a) Steps to reduce and stop the ingress of water into underground workings and (b) The acid mine water be pumped and treated to reduce the mine water contribution to the salinity of major river systems.
DMR said it is engaging National Treasury and the Department of Water and Sanitation with a view to the implementation of the ingress control initiatives. The implementation of ingress control initiatives will reduce the amount of Acid Mine Drainage pumping and treating.
Members asked about the water treatment process; the ingress control concept; the budget for the rehabilitation of these mines; DMR non-access to 1 347 mines and related arrests, and the implementation of recommendations of the Inter Ministerial Committee on Acid Mine Drainage.
Mr Andries Moatshe, DMR Chief Director: Mine Environmental Management, said derelict and ownerless mines refer to a mine whose owners or lease holders or mining rights holder have abandoned it and are not operating nor maintaining it to mitigate and manage associated health and environmental impacts as well as those mines whose owners or operators can no longer be traced. These would comprise of mine sites that were operational during the period when environmental management of mining was not well regulated.The objectives of the management of the derelict and ownerless mine sites is to address public health and safety impacts and environmental impacts on both surface and ground water and air quality. The distribution of the derelict and ownerless mine sites shows a total of 5 976 such mines with the Northern Cape having the highest number of 1 065, followed by the North West with 1 040 and the Free State having the lowest number of 229. The breakdown of the figures showed that 192 of such mines were given high priority, 183 moderate priority, 378 low priority and 2 876 of these mines did not need rehabilitation while there was no access to 1 347 of the mines and 1 000 are still fully operational.
Asbestos mines are estimated to be 245 of the 5976.The fair value of the liability for rehabilitation of former asbestos mining sites was estimated at R2 billion as at 31 March 2016. R199.6 million of this liability was disclosed as a provision and the balance of R 1.8 billion was disclosed as a contingent liability. The best estimate value of the closure cost of other derelict and abandoned mines was estimated at R45.9 billion as at 31 March 2015, consisting of R44.7 billion for Class A mines and R1.2 billion for Class B and C mines. Between 2010/11 and 2015/16, a total of R496 209 000 in financial support has been provided to derelict and ownerless mine sites. For 2016/17, available data showed a budget of R27 553 469 with a breakdown per project including the closure of seven abandoned mines in the Gauteng province and the sealing off of dangerous mine holings, with 47 sealed in Limpopo, 178 in Gauteng and 42 in Mpumalanga. Work on derelict and ownerless mines provided a 189 work opportunities with 59 adult males, 39 adult women and 91 youths employed.
In 2010, a Team of Experts was instructed by government task team, chaired by the Directors-General of Mineral Resources and Water and Sanitation, to advise the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), comprising the Ministers of Mineral Resources, Water and Sanitation and Science and Technology and the Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission. An IMC report was produced with the intent to guide the management of AMD in the Witwatersrand Basin. The report recommended that (a) Steps be implemented to reduce and stop the ingress of water into the underground workings as far as is possible. This will reduce the volumes of water which need to be pumped and treated to more acceptable levels and consequently reduce the operational costs of AMD management and (b) The acid mine water be pumped and treated to reduce the mine water contribution to the salinity of major river systems, an example being the Vaal River System.
a) Reduce Ingress of Water:
• In the Central Rand Gold Field: Amalgam Canal costs R8 016 367 producing 2 million litres per day; Durban Roodepoort Deep (DRD) canal costs R98 774 635 producing 5.62 million litres per day; Boksburg Canal with a capacity of 11.23 million per day costs R33 043 865 and the City Deep Mine Canal with a capacity of 6.92 million litres per day costs R61 775 404.
• In the East Rand Gold Field: details on these projects were provided: South Blesbokspruit, Central Blesbokspruit, North Blesbokspruit, Cowles Dam Ingress ERB; Van Rhyn Ponding Repair Canal.
• In the West Rand, there is the Florida Lake Canal.
b) Pumping And Treating: The short term solution is Wits Basins with a total cost of R2.8 billion.
In the Western Basin, the Old Rand Uranium AMD treatment plant was upgraded to 36 million litres per day. • The project has mostly eradicated surface decant with the exception of sporadic decants during high rainfall and neutralised AMD is released to Tweelopiespruit.
• In the Central Basin, a new AMD treatment plant was constructed in January 2013 next to the South West Vertical Shaft with a capacity of 84 million litres per day. This has been operational since May 2014 with the treated water released into the Elsburgspruit.
• In the Eastern Basin, a new plant of 110 million capacity per day has been built and operational since August 2016 and the treated water released into Blesbokspruit.
- DMR is:
• finalising the verification process of D&O mine sites.
• updating the State Contingent Liability to reflect current developments.
• engaging both National Treasury and the Department of Water and Sanitation with a view to the implementation of ingress control initiatives. The implementation of ingress control initiatives will reduce the amount of AMD pumping and treating.
- DMR will continue with the rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines.
Mr J Lorimer (DA), referring to the various water treatment processes, asked if the treated water is potable and what was being done to make it potable if not.
Adv H Schmidt (DA) asked for an explanation for the concept of the ingress control.
Ms M Mafolo (ANC) referring to the limited budget, asked if the DMR was covering all the mines or just the ones closer to the people.
Mr Z Mandela (ANC), referring to the proposed recommendations, asked if any of those recommendations were being implemented. On the acidic water treatment, he asked how much of this water was being pumped back to the communities. He asked about the identity of the owners of the mines where the DMR carried out rehabilitation. He questioned the rationale behind providing financial support to the licence holders of these mines. On the mines where DMR had no access, he asked about the consequences for such actions and if appropriate steps had been taken to punish the defaulters.
Mr Moatshe replied that the water treatment is being done by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and he could only provide information about the water quality in writing at a later date after he gets the information. He explained that continuous ingress control was important to keep the water table at its critical level. On the limited budget and how many mines are covered, the DMR has maximally covered all the affected mines but would love to give more priority to the more hazardous mines if there is increased government funding. The proposed recommendations are being implemented. There were two recommendations given by the Inter-Ministerial Committee and one of these was the ingress control which is already being implemented by DMR despite limited funding. On the water treatment question, he noted that at present, part of the water being treated is coming from the ingress control and this is going into the rivers in the community, meaning that these communities are impacted in one way or the other.
Mr Reuben Masenya, DMR Director of Mine Closure, replied that DMR was not carrying out full rehabilitation but closing up the dangerous holings which can be of immediate danger to the communities. He promised to forward information on the identities of the owners of the mining licences of the affected mines.
Ms Irene Singo, DMR CFO, replied about the financial assistance given to mines. She referred to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) which allows for that. A database was created and out of this the DMR has been able to identify certain mines for which owners have been made to take responsibility. However, there are some mines which are classified as high priority and with the assistance of National Treasury, these mines are rehabilitated.
Mr Moatshe replied about the non-access by DMR to some mines, stating that it was a continual challenge but with the help of enforcement and security agencies, this challenge was being tackled.
Mr David Msiza, DMR Acting Director General, emphasised the collaboration between the DMR and the Department of Water and Sanitation. He spoke about the challenges of health and safety which are very visible in the Gauteng region.
Adv Schmidt asked how DMR intended to continue with the project despite its limited funding and the amount of the total financial sum needed.
Mr Mandela referred again to the non-access of DMR officials to some of these mines and asked if any arrests had been made so far and what was being done to ensure nobody is above the law. On mine rehabilitation, he asked who was responsible for the financial aspect since it was not the responsibility of DMR but that of the mining licence holder.
Mr Msiza replied that the DMR only gets involved with ownerless mines. Priority was given to mines in high risk areas.
On mine rehabilitation, Mr Moatshe emphasised that high priority was given to areas which are considered very hazardous but government was working hard to deal with as many of these mines as possible. On the ingress control method, the Council for Geoscience is working on this by mapping out the various areas and determining the regions which contain a high content of chemicals and then diversion of the water in these areas is carried out. On the issue of arrests, he was not aware of any arrests but he would provide this data to the Committee in a subsequent meeting.
Ms Singo replied to the budget questions and noted that the projected figures were based on estimates for the rehabilitation of these mines. However there is an internal committee in the Department which is responsible for looking at these specifics before a request is presented to National Treasury.
Ms Mafolo talked about a mine in her community which had been abandoned. She asked about the process involved in the rehabilitation of such a mine and why there was no access to these mines.
Mr Msiza asked Ms Mafolo to provide details of the mine and if the mine has potential, then help would be rendered.
The Chairperson concluded that DMR should go back and provide a proper breakdown of these specifics as it would assist the Committee in determining which areas were of high priority. He wanted the Department to state expressly how they determine which areas are of high priority.
Mr Moatshe replied that the state owned entities would be involved and then DMR would return in about six to eight months to give a comprehensive report.
The meeting was adjourned.
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