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Impala Platinum Holdings Limited's disclosure of environmental non-compliances in annual reports

Implats’ annual reports contain very little detail on environmental non-compliances, and no information on compliance monitoring and enforcement action. A five level incident classification system for managing environmental performance was only approved in 2013,1 and this is not being implemented until 2015.2

The company stated in its 2011 Sustainable Development Report that reporting conventions were not standardised across the Implats Group and a process was under way to finalise definitions for environmental incidents.3 It was also stated in the 2011 Sustainable Development Report that the only operations for which the company reports in detail on environmental incidents are the Rustenburg operations, which during that year had had no critical incidents and 152 high-level incidents.4

Reporting on non-compliances in Implats’ reports therefore consists mainly of occasional references to non-compliance.

2009 company reports

In the 2009 Sustainable Development Report it was stated that there were minor and infrequent exceedances against national ambient air quality standards.5 It was also stated that fugitive dust from the tailings dam at Mimosa was “a challenge”.6 The same statement was made in 2010.7

The 2009 Sustainable Development Report stated that during the 2009 financial year there had been no critical level environmental incidents and no significant breaches of environmental laws, regulations or standards reported.8

2010 company reports

In the company’s 2010 Annual Report, it was acknowledged that the business has a direct impact on the environment, including through air, water and land pollution.9 Again, as in 2009, it was stated that there were minor and infrequent exceedances against national ambient air quality standards.10

2011, 2012 and 2013 company reports

The 2011, 2012 and 2013 reports also contain references to general environmental issues, but no reporting on non-compliances.

2014 company reports

In the 2014 report it was stated that there were no “critical” incidents reported during the year.11 It was also reported that during the year Marula and Refineries had applied for waste licences for their waste management activities and the outcomes were still pending.12

Impala Platinum Springs Environmental Impact Assessment

In a September 2013 Technical Memorandum attached to Implat’s 2013 Environmental Impact Assessment for Impala Platinum Springs, published on the website of environmental consultants Golder Associates, it is noted that:13

The following waste activities identified at Impala Springs Refinery are not in compliance with the licensing requirements of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (Act 59 of 2008) (NEMWA):

  • BMR pond;
  • New BMR pond;
  • EESS;
  • Main salvage yard;
  • RWR pond;
  • Nickel sulphate storage;
  • RO & ETP crystalliser;
  • Ash storage silo’s;
  • PMR open area;
  • 2 x Oil skimmers at BMR;
  • PMR crystalliser 1; and
  • PMR crystalliser 2.14

The Memorandum states that:

[a]ll the waste activities to be licensed have the potential to impact severely on surface and ground water at and around the refinery. Most of the wastes are hazardous and have the potential to contaminate soil, air, surface and ground water as well as cause harm to humans. Some of the plants such as RO’s, pumps, ash, dust and related logistical activities have an impact on air quality as well as environmental noise.15

In a separate appendix to the Environmental Impact Assessment, dealing with air quality, it is noted that:

Results from Impala’s HR and MMS stations located adjacent to the site indicate that the PM10 concentrations exceed the national ambient standards. The number of daily exceedances of the limit is higher than the maximum allowed number (4 days per annum).16

The other appendices to the EIA also raised matters of concern. In the groundwater assessment, it is stated that “the future land use will be affected by the surface contamination as well as the run-off from the sources”17 and that the “simulated sulphate and chloride plumes will, regardless of the scenario, impact on the groundwater quality beyond the site boundaries.”18

In the surface water assessment, it is stated that, “in a case of a spillage, the BMR (Base Metals Refinery pond) water would not meet the RWQO (Resource Water Quality Objectives) for Conductivity, Ammonia, Sulphate, Sodium, Nickel and Chloride. The high conductivity levels, high sulphates and high ammonia levels would have health risks to livestock drinking water downstream and will have a negative impact on the aquatic life in the stream”19 and that water quality is not monitored in the Precious Metals Refinery pond.20

In the Baseline Monitoring Survey of Potentially Receiving Water Bodies it is stated that the “present ecological state of the aquatic ecosystems in the vicinity of Implats is currently in a highly degraded state, ranging from ‘largely modified’ (category D) to ‘critically modified’ (category F) from natural conditions. This is the result of impacts and exposure to a variety (mining, industrial and urban) of activities over the long term.” This document also states that “the toxicity tests revealed that the surface water pools in the vicinity of the slimes dams (currently being rehabilitated) pose a high acute and short chronic hazard to aquatic biota, should it come into contact with the aquatic ecosystems.”21

One of the comments in the Comment and Response Report is that “historically, there has been pollution associated with the operation of the Enhanced Evaporation and Spray System, which contaminated immediately surrounding land and may have caused a groundwater pollution plume. In addition, there is a possible leak from the liner of the BMR pond.”22

That document also contains the following comments by neighbouring landowners:

(d)uring the rainy months, the streams overflow with rain water, causing it to flow in the direction of the houses;23

(w)ind blows in the direction of houses causing a strong odour from the PMR Crystalliser 1 and 2. When the second one was built two years ago the odour became worse;24

(t)he trees in our garden on the side facing the site are dead. It is due to the pollution from the refinery;25 and

smoke from Impala causes pollution and poses a health risk.26

  1. Impala Annual Report 2013 at p44, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/implats_reports_2013/downloads/Implats_integrated_annual_report_%202013.pdf
  2. Impala Sustainable Development Report 2014 at p86, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2014/Implats_sustainability_report_2014.pdf
  3. Impala Sustainable Development Report 2011 at p83, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2011/annual%20reports/Implats%20SD%20Combined_LoRes.pdf
  4. Impala Sustainable Development Report 2011 at p83, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2011/annual%20reports/Implats%20SD%20Combined_LoRes.pdf
  5. Impala Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p154, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2009/annual_report/SD/f/IMPLATS_SD09.pdf
  6. Impala Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p154, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2009/annual_report/SD/f/IMPLATS_SD09.pdf
  7. Impala Annual Report 2010 at p126, available at http://financialresults.co.za/2010/implats_ar2010/downloads/implats_ar2010.pdf
  8. Impala Sustainable Development Report 2009 at p139, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2009/annual_report/SD/f/IMPLATS_SD09.pdf
  9. Impala Annual Report 2010 at p38, available at http://financialresults.co.za/2010/implats_ar2010/downloads/implats_ar2010.pdf
  10. Impala Annual Report 2010 at p126, available at http://financialresults.co.za/2010/implats_ar2010/downloads/implats_ar2010.pdf
  11. Impala Sustainable Development Report at p86, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2014/Implats_sustainability_report_2014.pdf
  12. Impala Sustainable Development Report at p93, available at http://www.implats.co.za/implats/downloads/2014/Implats_sustainability_report_2014.pdf
  13. EIA for Waste Management Activities Impala Platinum Springs, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Pages&sp_id=1485 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  14. Technical Memorandum, ‘Impala Springs Refinery licensing of various waste management activities: Waste background information to be included in EIA report’, at p1, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2088 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  15. Technical Memorandum, ‘Impala Springs Refinery licensing of various waste management activities: Waste background information to be included in EIA report’, at p14, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2088 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  16. ‘Air quality impact of waste handling activities at Impala Platinum Springs Refinery’, at p4, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2086 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  17. ‘Quantification of groundwater impacts at Impala Platinum Refineries’, at p4, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2090 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  18. ‘Quantification of groundwater impacts at Impala Platinum Refineries’, at p3, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2090 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  19. ‘Environmental impact investigation – Surface water management’, at p2, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2087 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  20. ‘Environmental impact investigation – Surface water management’, at p3, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2087 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  21. ‘Baseline biomonitoring survey of potential receiving water bodies in the vicinity of Impala Platinum Refineries, Springs, South Africa’, at p14, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2091 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  22. ‘Impala Platinum Refineries environmental impact assessment for waste management activities: Comment and response report’ at p3, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2093 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  23. ‘Impala Platinum Refineries environmental impact assessment for waste management activities: Comment and response report’ at p4, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2093 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  24. ‘Impala Platinum Refineries environmental impact assessment for waste management activities: Comment and response report’ at p9, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2093 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  25. ‘Impala Platinum Refineries environmental impact assessment for waste management activities: Comment and response report’ at p9, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2093 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  26. ‘Impala Platinum Refineries environmental impact assessment for waste management activities: Comment and response report’ at p11, available at http://www.golder.com/af/modules.php?name=Documents&op=viewlive&sp_id=2093 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).