Skip to Content

Summary of findings and company response

The following statement is published in Lonmin’s 2014 Sustainable Development Report:

At a minimum, the Company seeks legislative compliance, while aiming for industry-leading practice and continual improvement.1

What little information is publicly available, in Lonmin’s annual reports and elsewhere, reveals an apparent significant number of serious non-compliances with environmental laws and permits, including incidents causing harm to the environment at and around Lonmin operations, a failure to meet air quality permit requirements, repeated exceedances of dust emission limits, poor water management systems and non-functional sewage systems.

Lonmin provides no information about compliance inspections at its operations. 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

Lonmin has been under scrutiny ever since the events of August 2012, when 34 striking Lonmin miners were killed, and another 78 injured, by the South African Police Service at Marikana. The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana massacre devoted an entire chapter of its final report to Lonmin’s failure to comply with its social and labour plan at Marikana, in particular its obligations to provide housing for workers as required by that plan. The social and labour plan operates alongside the environmental management programme under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002.2  The report found that Lonmin’s failure to comply with its housing obligations “created an environment conducive to the creation of tension, labour unrest, disunity among its employees or other harmful conduct”.3

The direct and indirect harm caused by Lonmin’s operations prompted the non-profit Bench Marks Foundation to recommend the cancellation or suspension of Lonmin’s mining right, due to the breach of several terms and conditions of that right.4 The recommendation was based in part on Lonmin’s failures to comply with environmental laws.

Lonmin’s Peter McElligott provided a brief response to Full Disclosure. Mr McElligott referred to the CER’s reliance on statements in the Bench Marks Foundation Report of 2013, and stated that we are “no doubt aware that Lonmin provided a detailed response to that report at the time of its publication. Our response is not repeated here. We note however, that you have quoted selectively from the report and elected not to include or consider in your baseline assessment the responses previously provided by Lonmin.”

However, the only response to Bench Marks’ 2013 report from Lonmin of which we are aware is a media release issued on 31 October 2013.5 In the media release, Lonmin indicates that “we acknowledge that some of the data contained in Lonmin’s reports is not accurate across the entire period and that some of the standards and measures have changed.” The media release does not address any of the specific allegations in the Bench Marks’ report.

While Lonmin indicates on its website that it has published a formal response to a previous Bench Marks report, published in 2012, the link to Lonmin’s response does not work.6

In his response, Mr McElligott refers to Lonmin’s ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) certification, which Lonmin has retained for the last 12 years. He states that “[o]ver this period, we have maintained a measure of continual improvement and have significantly reduced non-conformance levels”.

ISO 14000 is a set of standards related to environmental management. Adherence to these standards is intended to assist companies in minimising their negative environmental impact and to comply with laws and regulations applicable in their countries of operation. It is run by independent private companies and does not, in any way, guarantee that a certified company is complying with applicable environmental laws. Certification merely means that the company has systems in place which should, theoretically, help it comply with applicable laws and minimise its environmental impact.

ISO 14001 (the current version being ISO 14001:2015) sets out the criteria for an Environmental Management System. An Environmental Management System refers to the management of a company’s environmental programmes in a comprehensive, systematic, planned and documented manner. ISO 14001 does not stipulate any requirements for environmental performance, but rather maps out a framework that companies can follow to set up and maintain an effective Environmental Management System.

Retention of ISO 14001 certification is therefore not an indication that a company is in compliance with environmental laws and permits, nor is it a substitute for reporting environmental non-compliance.

  1. Lonmin Sustainable Development Report 2014 at p83, available at
  2. Chapter 24, Marikana Commission of Inquiry: Report on matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the tragic incidents at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, in the North West province, available at:
  3. Marikana Commission of Inquiry: Report on matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the tragic incidents at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, in the North West province, para37, available at:
  4. ‘Coping with Unsustainability, Policy Gap 7, Lonmin 2003 – 2012’, at p30, available at
  5. Media Release available at: (last accessed on 3 September 2015).