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Environmental non-compliances reported by affected communities, the media, & NGOs

Various reports detail alleged destruction of wetlands by Exxaro, both at Weltevreden Farm1 and at Mooifontein2 in Mpumalanga. In early 2014, the non-profit organisation the Federation for a Sustainable Environment reported on illegal mining which had been and probably was still being carried out by Exxaro at Weltevreden. In 2012, the Department of Water Affairs had ordered Exxaro to cease mining in the area, as it was doing so without a water use licence. Exxaro then appealed the Department of Water Affair’s decision to the Water Tribunal. However, the subsequent disbandment of the Tribunal prompted Exxaro to apply to the High Court on the basis that the disbandment left them without the legal recourse of appeal. The High Court granted Exxaro’s application and set the directive aside on the basis of the absence of the Tribunal. The Federation for a Sustainable Environment report stated that Exxaro itself recognised that mining would destroy the wetland as reflected by the following statement on Exarro’s website:

Probable impacts on the wetland within the boundaries of Block OWM include the total removal of the soil and vegetation, and thus the permanent destruction of the existing wetlands and the associated habitats for fauna and flora. If the wetlands are removed, the likelihood of successfully rehabilitating and restoring the wetlands subsequent to mining is very low; thus, the impact would be permanent.

Destruction of the wetlands will take place due to opencast mining activities.3

Exxaro published a statement refuting the allegation that it was mining the wetland without permission, detailing the permissions held by it permitting mining in the relevant area. The publication included the above statements relating to destruction of the wetland and also noted that mining was to recommence in the area.4 The Federation for a Sustainable Environment however claimed that the co-ordinates of the area covered by the water use licence held by Exxaro excluded the wetland.

Exxaro has also recently been implicated in investigations being carried out by the Public Protector relating to water pollution caused by mining activities. It was reported in 2014 that a criminal complaint had been laid against the company by the Federation for a Sustainable Environment for alleged violations of environmental laws.5

In a parliamentary question by a member of the Inkatha Freedom Party to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in 2010, it was queried how many mining companies had contravened the conditions of their water licences and what penalties had been handed out as a result. The Minister responded with a list of mines, which included an Exxaro mine in Limpopo (the name of the mine is not provided). It was stated that no penalties were imposed as the mine took remedial action. The pollution control dam had been overflowing and the quantity was reduced by a recycling method.6

A 2012 news report stated that Exxaro’s Glisa mine had been criminally charged by the Department of Water Affairs for contravening the National Water Act. Exxaro’s offences included the storage of dirty water in an open pit rather than in a pollution control dam, which could lead to pollution of ground water, operating without a water use licence and diverting natural water courses without authorisation.7 A 2012 response by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs to a question posed by a member of the Democratic Alliance also noted that a criminal case had been opened against Exxaro’s Glisa operation.8 This was further confirmed in response to a PAIA request submitted by the CER to the Department of Water & Sanitation for records indicating the names of mines and industrial facilities in respect of which criminal dockets have been opened with the SAPS for failure to comply with the National Water Act. Exxaro’s Glisa operation was on the list received from the Department of Water & Sanitation, indicating that a criminal investigation had been opened against Exxaro in 2012 for “use of water otherwise than as permitted under this Act [National Water Act]” and for “failure to comply with a directive issued under section 19, 20, 53 or 118”.

As of 25 July 2014, Glisa colliery, Arnot colliery and Durnacol mine did not have Water Use Licences. The authorisation of the Glisa colliery licence was said to be in process, but Arnot colliery and Durnacol mine had not yet applied for the authorisations.9 Exxaro has a history of non-compliance with the obligation to obtain water use licences.10

Other relevant media reports include reports on community opposition to Exxaro operations due to the potential for significant negative environmental effects.11

  1. Farmer goes to Blue Scorpions over Exxaro, News24, 14th May 2012, available at http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Farmer-goes-to-Blue-Scorpions-over-Exxaro-20120514 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  2. Exxaro denies report of environmental-related Mooifontein closure, Mining Weekly, 5th November 2010, available at http://www.miningweekly.com/article/exxaro-denies-report-of-environmental-related-mooifontein-closure-2010-11-05 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  3. http://www.fse.org.za/index.php/water/item/338-ways-to-kill-a-wetland (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  4. http://www.exxaro.com/index.php/sustainability/mining-at-block-owm-leeuwpan/ (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  5. Water Pollution Near Mines Prompts South African Probe, Bloomberg, 22nd May 2014, available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-21/water-pollution-near-mines-prompts-south-african-ombudsman-probe.html (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  6. Question No. 927, Date of publication in internal question paper: 23 March 2010, available at https://pmg.org.za/question_reply/175/
  7. Coal mine in hot water, Bizcommunity, 14 September 2012, available at http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/608/81716.html (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  8. Question No. 2114, Date of publication in internal question paper: 17 August 2012, available at https://pmg.org.za/question_reply/417/
  9. 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
  10. http://cer.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Joint-letter-to-JSE-SRI-Dec-2010.pdf at p3-4 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  11. http://www.wattnow.co.za/article.php?id=534 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).