Summary of findings and company response
Harmony Gold has published the following Environmental Policy:
By the very nature of our business we impact on the environment yet we aspire to leaving a net positive legacy wherever we operate. Excellence in environmental performance is essential to our business success.1
Harmony Gold’s company reports reveal a number of serious non-compliances with environmental laws, in particular multiple unlawful discharges and overflows, and ongoing excessive dust emissions.
The 2009 company report makes reference to “compliance audits” undertaken that year, including by the Department of Mineral Resources. The company states that “areas of non-compliance identified by the audits have been and are being addressed”. However, no further information is provided as to the nature or severity of these non-compliances.
In 2011 the company received four directives from the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Water Affairs. Harmony Gold appears to dispute the content of two of these directives.
Harmony Gold’s 2012 annual report refers to litigation brought by Harmony Gold in relation to its obligation, pursuant to a directive issued by the Department of Water Affairs, to deal with acid mine drainage at an operation that it had sold to a company that subsequently went into liquidation. Despite the fact that the North Gauteng High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal found against Harmony Gold, and the Constitutional Court denied Harmony Gold’s application for leave to appeal, the company extraordinarily still denies liability for the cost of the pumping required by the directive.
The Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Water and Sanitation are responsible for compliance monitoring and enforcement of environmental and water laws by mining companies. Thus far, unlike the Department of Environmental Affairs, neither department has published any information on its compliance monitoring and enforcement action. This means that it is impossible to know whether or not the level of disclosure on environmental non-compliances by mining companies in their annual reports is accurate or incomplete.
For more information please see Enforcing the Law: the challenges undermining environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement in South Africa.
The CER wrote to Harmony’s Environmental Management Executive on 22 July 2015, inviting the company to respond to the findings in Full Disclosure by 19 August 2015. No response has been received to date.
- http://www.harmony.co.za/downloads/finish/30-policies/573-environmental-policy (last accessed on 7 August 2015).