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Sector overview

Mining has wide-ranging and severe impacts on the environment, including contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals used in the mining process, loss of biodiversity,1 air pollution and the creation of large amounts of waste. In South Africa, unrehabilitated mines and acid mine drainage are particular problems. These environmental issues can have harmful effects on human health.2

The mining sector accounts directly for 8.3% GDP3 and “total industry employment” was put at 493,000 by the Minister for Mineral Resources in 2015.4

Primary Legislation

National Environmental Management Act
National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act
National Environmental Management: Waste Act
National Water Act
Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act
National Heritage Resources Act
Environment Conservation Act

Pursuant to these pieces of legislation, companies are required to have licences relating to the relevant activities under the Acts. Minimum emission standards were published in Government Notice No. 248 in 2010.5 Licences granted to companies under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act must at least incorporate these standards and deadlines were introduced for meeting those standards.

  1. (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  2. Human Health and Environmental Damages from Mining and Mineral Processing Wastes, published by the Office of Solid Waste, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, December 1995, at page 1
  3. (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  4. (last accessed on 7 August 2015).