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Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament
The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.
MINERALS AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE, ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE AND PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE: JOINT MEETING
12 September 2001
CONSIDERATION OF A PETITION SUBMITTED TO THE SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT BY THE EAST RAND MINE DUST ERADICATION COMMITTEE
Chairpersons: Mr D. Nkosi and Mr I. Carrim
Documents handed out:
Gold Mine Slime Dump - Dust Problem Petition (The East Rand Mine Dust Eradication Committee)
Presentation to Joint Portfolio Committees: Minerals and Energy Affairs, and Environment and Tourism (Gauteng Mining Pollution Forum Steering Committee)
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A joint sitting of the Parliamentary Committees of Minerals and Energy, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and Provincial and Local Government was held to debate and respond to a petition that had been submitted to the Speaker of Parliament by the East Rand Mine Dust Eradication Committee. The Petition related to the resolution of the problem of pollution in the Boksburg vicinity that had resulted from disused mines in the area. The Gauteng Mining Pollution Forum Steering Committee reported on their approaches to the problem. The Committee's adjourned the meeting in agreement that the Minerals and Energy Portfolio Committee would have to take the lead on the issue as this fell under their scope.
Mr D. Nkosi (ANC) opened the meeting by giving Committee Members the background to the petition. He reported that the East Rand Mine Dust Eradication Committee (ERMDEC) had sent a petition to the Speaker of Parliament to ask Parliament to facilitate the resolution of the problem of pollution in the Boksburg vicinity that had resulted from disused mines in the area. Mr Nkosi then introduced the representatives of ERMDEC and invited them to make their presentation to the Committees.
Gold Mine Slime Dump - Dust Problem Petition: The East Rand Mine Dust Eradication Committee
Mr T. Bradford, Chairperson of ERMDEC, started by thanking Parliament and the Committees for the opportunity to voice the concerns of ERMDEC. He reported that ERMDEC had taken the step to write to Parliament because they had become frustrated with their dealings with the Boksburg City Council and the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME). He stated that their objective for going to Parliament was to enlighten the legislators so that they could play a more meaningful role and to ensure that the public retained its confidence in Parliament. Mr Bradford informed the Committees that ERMDEC wanted to ensure that there was a solution found for the problems arising from the dust, fires, run-off water and radiation emanating from the mine dumps. He said that ERMDEC wanted all surface areas of mine properties to be rehabilitated before such mines were closed. He said that the government would have to take the responsibility to provide funding for rehabilitation where private companies had not fulfilled this responsibility. He stated that ERMDEC wanted the government to maintain cemeteries, road infrastructure, fences and close up shafts in the mines. He said that ERMDEC wanted information on actions the municipality would take against squatters in the area and added that ERMDEC also needed information about the zoning and rates charged on land leased to and by the mines to industry. Mr Bradford closed his presentation by asking the Committees to ensure that the Boksburg City Council and the Department of Minerals and Energy responded to the concerns of ERMDEC in a serious and timely manner.
Mr J. Blanche (FA) stated that, in his opinion, the problem in the Boksburg area would have been dealt with efficiently if there had been a Member of Parliament responsible for the area. He urged the Committees to deal with the petition seriously. He also circulated copies of photographs of the mine dumps as evidence of the environmental problems in the Boksburg area.
Mr I. Carrim (ANC) commented that the problem was one that would constitutionally be dealt with by the local and provincial governments.
Presentation to Joint Portfolio Committees: Minerals and Energy Affairs, and Environment and Tourism
Ms M. Metcalfe, Gauteng Mining Pollution Forum Steering Committee, MEC Environment and Tourism, Gauteng Province, began her presentation by introducing the Gauteng Mining Pollution Forum (the "Forum"). She said that the Forum consisted of her Department, community representatives, a trade union, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Chamber of Mines who got together out of concern and need to solve mining pollution problems in the area. She announced that the Forum had elected a Steering Committee to which she was elected Chairperson. She informed the Committees that in Gauteng there were approximately 240 gold mine residue deposits. She said that these slime dumps had affected the morale of communities and that a coherent strategy needed to be developed to deal with abandoned mines. She said that the mine dumps produced dangerous contaminants such as cyanide and had negative environmental impacts such as air pollution, surface and ground water pollution, land sterilization, radiation and acid mine drainage. Ms Metcalfe argued that it was important to be clear on the legal framework that was applicable in dealing with mine pollution problems. She said that minerals and energy was a national function and therefore the responsibility of DME. She said that the environment function was however concurrent between the national and provincial governments. She emphasized the importance of treating mining pollution seriously as it was a constitutional right of citizens to be assured of an environment that was not harmful to their health and well being.
In her report on the strategy the Forum had adopted to address the impact of mining in Gauteng she reported the formation of the technology and information working groups. She reported that the Technology Working Group was developing strategies for water reclamation and purification projects, reclamation of mines project, waste reduction strategies, studying current rehabilitation technologies, finding alternative technologies, job multiplier alternatives and the identification of performance indicators. She said that the Information Working Group was responsible for researching and obtaining status quo information on the problem, feeding it into the rehabilitation process and for communication with all stakeholders.
Ms Metcalfe reported that, on the basis of work and reports from the working groups, a number of proposals had been accepted. She said these proposals had been aligned with time frames that prioritized community involvement, funding finalisation and phased implementation. In closing, she emphasized that in the way forward of their strategy the legal and administrative responsibilities would remain with DME and the mining industry. She also said that it would be important to highlight community consultation, the inclusion of interested NGOs and ongoing public communication.
Mr Nkosi thanked the presenter and reminded ERMDEC that he had written to them requesting that ERMDEC join the Forum. He said that he was extending the invitation to ERMDEC again for them to be part of the work that the Forum was doing.
Mr Bradford commended MEC Metcalfe for the work the Forum had done and expressed his appreciation for the invitation to join the Forum.
Ms D. Ndzanga (ANC) commented that there should be no pretence that mining pollution problems were not new and had existed for a long time. She said that before 1994 people living in townships around mine dumps had no recourse to deal with mine pollution. She said that the new government had done some work in grassing some mine dumps but more would need to be done.
Mr R. September (ANC) commented that the work of the Forum was commendable. He said that he did not understand the why ERMDEC did not participate in the Forum as working together on the problem would be advisable.
Mr E. Moorcroft (DP) commented that the Steering Committee of the Forum had outlined a commendable process for dealing with the problem but there seemed to be very little practical solutions emanating from its work. He said that the government needed to take financial responsibility for the process the Forum had outlined.
Mr J. Lucas (IFP) said that the problem with the Steering Committee report was that the Technology Working Group had not outlined clear solutions. He said the consequences of this were that they would be unable to determine the costs and budget for their programmes.
Mr G. Oliphant (ANC) said that it would be a mistake to deal with the problem as if it was the first time it had arisen. He said that the Portfolio Committees had to ensure that it dealt with it holistically with proper prioritization.
Mr M. Kalako (ANC) said that the funding for mine rehabilitation efforts would remain a problem because municipal budgets would be unable to accommodate them. He suggested that priority be given to developing sustainable funding strategies.
Mr J. Kilani (Chamber of Mines) said that he was encouraged by the responses of the Portfolio Committees to the mine dump pollution problem. He said that the Minerals and Energy Portfolio Committee had expressed concern over the problem at every opportunity with the Chamber of Mines. He said that there was a funding strategy on the table and that the user- payer principle was accepted by the industry. He said that in his opinion the real back breaker to the Forum's efforts was finding the right solutions.
Mr Carrim said that the other Committees accepted that the way forward in dealing with the petition and the problems around mining pollution would have to be guided by the leadership of the Minerals and Energy Portfolio Committee as this fell under their scope.
Mr Nkosi thanked the presenters and all Committee Members for making time for the joint sitting of Committees. He announced that he would report to the Speaker on the deliberations of the session. The meeting adjourned.
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