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DRDGOLD Limited's disclosure of environmental non-compliances in annual reports

DRD’s company reports provide some information on environmental non-compliances.

2009 company reports

In the company’s 2009 Annual Report, it was recorded that in 2006 two applications had been brought against DRD by non-profit law clinic the Legal Resources Centre on behalf of the residents of two communities situated near DRD tailings sites. It was stated that the communities sought orders for the revision of the Environmental Management Programmes of both sites and for the sites to be rehabilitated and closed.1

In the 2009 Sustainable Development Report it was noted that acid mine drainage in the Witwatersrand Basin is an environmental threat and a challenge DRD faces alongside other companies in the region, a frequently repeated statement in later reports.2

It was also recorded that during the reporting period 11 spills had occurred at Blyvooruitzicht, the volume of which was estimated to be approximately 8000 tonnes. It was stated that the spills were all on mine property and did not affect any watercourses.3

There was also one “reportable incident” when spillage control dams were breached at the Crown plant. This breach resulted in 600 tonnes of slime flowing into the Russel stream, which affected an area 30 metres long. It was stated that the area was in the process of being cleaned up.4

The quality of water discharged from underground into the Wonderfontein Spruit was also considered in the 2009 Sustainable Development Report. Figures were given for components such as suspended solids in the water and the pH level, and it was stated that the water was of “relatively good quality” (frequently restated in later reports).5

It was also noted that pending the decision of regulators on proposals regarding a water treatment plant and a pipeline, in the Western Basin water was being discharged into the Tweelopies Spruit after being only partially treated, when it still contained high sulphate levels.6

Particular attention is given in the 2009 Sustainable Development Report to the “anticipated significant impacts” on biodiversity of the Daggafontein Tailings Storage Facility. These were said to include: water quality in the Bleskbok Spruit, destruction or degradation of wetland habitat and a reduction in species diversity.7

2010 company reports

In the 2010 Annual Report it was stated that during the reporting period there had been one reportable environmental incident. It was stated that vandalism to a pipe resulted in the spillage of 1500 tonnes of slime.8

The 2010 Annual Report stated that there had been a 20% decrease (to 115) in the number of instances where levels of dust exceeded the SANS standard.9 This of course still leaves a large number of exceedances and many of DRD’s operations are in very close proximity to residential areas. There were nine complaints about dust received by Crown during the year.10

It was noted that due to concerted efforts there were no reportable slime spillages at Blyvooruitzicht.11 There were however six spills on mine property at Blyvooruitzicht which apparently did not affect any watercourses.12

The 2010 Annual Report also contained details of a civil suit brought against DRD for the pollution of peat reserves. It was noted that the action was being defended, but that the matter was suspended due to the possibility of a settlement being agreed upon.13 It appears from the 2011 Annual Report that the matter had failed to settle.14 A 2014 circular to DRD shareholders described the litigation and reported that: “(t)he parties will now apply to court for a date of hearing”, but also, “(t)he plaintiffs withdrew the action against all defendants”.15 The current status of the litigation is therefore unclear.

2011 company reports

In the 2011 financial year the company reported 16 environmental incidents. These included water pollution caused by burst pipes and storm water run-off, dust-related incidents and radiation incidents.16 Dust levels also exceeded the SANS standard on 18 occasions and complaints were received relating to dust.17

2012 company reports

In the 2012 report it was stated that five water pollution incidents had been reported to the Department of Water Affairs in the financial year, which included the contamination of the Withok River due to the failure of the Ergo residue line. This river provides drinking water for livestock and also for human consumption. A directive was issued by the Department of Water Affairs and DRD states that it spent R2.3 million repairing the damage, which gives an indication of the severity of the incident.18

There were two spillages at Crown operations and three at Ergo during the year, but the 2012 report is unclear as to whether these are the same five water pollution incidents reported to the Department of Water Affairs.19

There were also 155 instances where dust levels exceeded the SANS standard.20 The increase from 2011 was said to be due to the decommissioning of the Crown tailings facility, which led to the dust drying out when deposition stopped. It was stated that this was only a temporary situation.21

2013 company reports

In the 2013 Sustainable Development Report one of the challenges of the previous year was said to be spillage during commissioning of a new pipeline, as was dust blown from reclamation sites and the closeness of local communities.22 There were 51 dust level exceedances of the SANS standard in the 2012-2013 financial year.23

Acid mine drainage is an issue consistently reported on in DRD’s reports and associated with DRD in the media.24 Particular attention is given in each year’s annual report to the polluted water in the central basin of the Witwatersrand, which is rising year after year. It is repeatedly noted that this water cannot be allowed to rise above 150 meters below surface level, or groundwater pollution will occur.25

In 2013 it was stated that the central basin was currently flooding and water was expected to decant around the ERPM Cinderella Shaft unless preventative measures were taken. The water was said to be contaminated with metal sulphides. DRD stated that government had rejected the proposal submitted jointly by a number of mining companies, including DRD, to contain the problem.26 This rejection has been associated with some controversy.27

In the company’s 2013 Annual Report DRD also stated that progressive flooding could eventually cause the discharge of acid mine drainage at the surface and into local water sources and also that “estimates of the probable rate of rise of water are contradictory and lack scientific support”.28

It was also reported in the 2013 report that there were two spillage incidents, one at Crown and one at Ergo.29 At Ergo there were also two pollution incidents due to pipe bursts and dam overflows.30

2014 company reports

The 2014 Integrated Report stated that an audit had been carried out by the Department of Water and Sanitation in June 2014 and that some “minor findings were established”.31

Two dust complaints were received during the financial year32 and there were 27 dust exceedances (no detail is provided on what limit the exceedances related to).33

Included under a list of “challenges” experienced during the year was “spillage from burst pipelines”.34

In relation to the acid mine drainage problem, the 2014 report stated that in the central basin of the Witwatersrand, the water level had risen to 120 meters below surface (i.e. above the 150 meter limit reported in the 2012 report as the level beyond which the water could not be allowed to rise).35 It was reported that government authorities are implementing a solution to the problem and had appointed the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority as the main contractor to implement the plan. Water will be treated to a “grey” (industrial) standard before being released to the environment.36

In its 2014 Annual Report DRD reported that “WUL applications for Crown, City Deep and Knights are still awaiting approval.” This statement is contrary to the information provided by the Minister of Water and Sanitation (see below), which confirms that as of the end of July 2014, some DRD operations had not even submitted applications for WULs.37

In a response to a parliamentary question, the Minister of Water and Sanitation stated that as at 25 July 2014, ‘Crown Gold Recoveries’ and ‘Crown Mine: Ergo Mine Knights’, both DRD operations, were operating without water use licences and no applications for authorisation had been received by the Department of Water and Sanitation. The application for authorisation submitted by a mining operation called ‘Knights Gold’ in Gauteng was reportedly in process, as was that of another unnamed DRD mine.38

Another 2014 parliamentary reply also listed ‘Crown Gold Recoveries’ and ‘Crown Mine: Ergo Mine Knights Section’ as not having applied for WULs, and stated that in relation to both operations investigations had been conducted, and that in relation to ‘Crown Gold Recoveries’, a Notice of Intention to Issue a Directive had been issued.39

  1. DRDGOLD Annual Report 2009 at p113, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/files/annual/ar_2009/files/DRDGOLD_AR2009.pdf
  2. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p7, available at http://www.drdgold.com/assets/sustainability/reports/2009/DRDGOLD_SD2009.pdf
  3. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p35, available at http://www.drdgold.com/assets/sustainability/reports/2009/DRDGOLD_SD2009.pdf
  4. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p36, available at http://www.drdgold.com/assets/sustainability/reports/2009/DRDGOLD_SD2009.pdf
  5. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p38, available at http://www.drdgold.com/assets/sustainability/reports/2009/DRDGOLD_SD2009.pdf
  6. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p39, available at http://www.drdgold.com/assets/sustainability/reports/2009/DRDGOLD_SD2009.pdf
  7. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p45, available at http://www.drdgold.com/assets/sustainability/reports/2009/DRDGOLD_SD2009.pdf
  8. DRDGOLD Annual Report 2010 at p29, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/files/annual/ar_2010/f/DRDGOLD_AR2010.pdf
  9. DRDGOLD Annual Report 2010 at p29, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/files/annual/ar_2010/f/DRDGOLD_AR2010.pdf
  10. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2010 at p41, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/sustainability/reports/2010/f/DRDGOLD_SD2010.pdf
  11. DRDGOLD Annual Report 2010 at p29, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/files/annual/ar_2010/f/DRDGOLD_AR2010.pdf
  12. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2011 at p40, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/sustainability/reports/2011/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2011.pdf
  13. DRDGOLD Annual Report 2010 at p124, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/files/annual/ar_2010/f/DRDGOLD_AR2010.pdf
  14. DRDGOLD Annual Report 2011 at p155, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/files/annual/ar_2011/downloads/DRDGOLD-annual-report-2011.pdf
  15. Circular to DRDGold shareholders, Date of issue: 6 May 2014, at p16, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/circulars/drd-gold-circular_6may14.pdf
  16. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2011 at p37, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/sustainability/reports/2011/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2011.pdf
  17. DRDGOLD Sustainable Development Report 2011 at p42, available at http://www.drd.co.za/assets/sustainability/reports/2011/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2011.pdf
  18. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2012 at p35, available at http://integrated-report.com/drdgold/sd-2012/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2012.pdf
  19. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2012 at p40, available at http://integrated-report.com/drdgold/sd-2012/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2012.pdf
  20. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2012 at p40, available at http://integrated-report.com/drdgold/sd-2012/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2012.pdf
  21. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2012 at p40, available at http://integrated-report.com/drdgold/sd-2012/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2012.pdf
  22. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2013 at p46, available at http://drdgold.integrated-report.com/2013/sd/download/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2013.pdf
  23. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2013 at p50, available at http://drdgold.integrated-report.com/2013/sd/download/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2013.pdf
  24. http://earthlife.org.za/2010/01/latest-acid-mine-drainage-crisis-calls-for-a-constructive-response-from-civil-society/ (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  25. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2012 at p41, available at http://integrated-report.com/drdgold/sd-2012/downloads/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2012.pdf
  26. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2013 at p50, available at http://drdgold.integrated-report.com/2013/sd/download/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2013.pdf
  27. http://www.miningmx.com/news/gold_and_silver/WUC%20to%20list%20as%20acid%20water%20issue%20burns%20DRDGold.htm (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  28. DRDGOLD Annual Report 2013 at p30, available at http://drdgold.integrated-report.com/2013/download/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2013.pdf
  29. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2013 at p50, available at http://drdgold.integrated-report.com/2013/sd/download/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2013.pdf
  30. DRDGOLD Sustainability Report 2013 at p51, available at http://drdgold.integrated-report.com/2013/sd/download/DRDGOLD-sustainable-development-report-2013.pdf
  31. DRDGOLD Integrated Report 2014 at p69, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/annual-reports/2014/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2014.pdf
  32. DRDGOLD Integrated Report 2014 at p69, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/annual-reports/2014/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2014.pdf
  33. DRDGOLD Integrated Report 2014 at p71, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/annual-reports/2014/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2014.pdf
  34. DRDGOLD Integrated Report 2014 at p74, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/annual-reports/2014/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2014.pdf
  35. DRDGOLD Integrated Report 2014 at p79, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/annual-reports/2014/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2014.pdf
  36. DRDGOLD Integrated Report 2014 at p79, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/annual-reports/2014/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2014.pdf
  37. DRDGOLD Integrated Report 2014 at p72, available at http://www.drd.co.za/investors-and-media/annual-reports/2014/DRDGOLD-integrated-report-2014.pdf
  38. Question No. 1716, Date of publication in internal question paper: 19 September 2014, available at https://www.dwa.gov.za/communications/Q&A/2014/NA%201716.pdf
  39. Question No. 735, Date of publication in internal question paper: 25 July 2014, at p5, available at https://www.dwa.gov.za/communications/Q&A/2014/NA%20735.pdf