Environmental non-compliances reported by affected communities, the media, & NGOs
In May 2016, a landmark judgment was handed down by the High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Local Division) in the case of Nkala and others v Harmony Gold and Others.1 The matter involved the certification of a class of 500 000 miners who contracted tuberculosis and silicosis during the course of their employment. This certification allows these miners to bring a class action law suit to seek damages from the mining companies at which they are, or have previously been, employed.2
The matter was brought against 32 mining companies, including ARM. The applicants allege that the companies have breached a number of their legal and constitutional duties to the miners, including their right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing.3
ARM is one of six of the respondent mining companies which applied for leave to appeal the judgment. In the High Court leave to appeal was denied in respect of the certification of the applicants as a class. However, leave to appeal in respect of the certification was subsequently granted by the Supreme Court of Appeal in September 2016.4
ARM was one of the mining companies called to submit evidence to the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-Affected Communities in South Africa, held in September and November 2016.
Full Disclosure 2015
There are a number of media reports of pollution caused by ARM’s subsidiaries. Assmang in particular has been linked to serious issues such as manganese poisoning of employees.5 An occupational hygienist previously contracted by Assmang said that he had warned Assmang more than ten years previously that it ran the risk of prosecution due to the high levels of toxic dust at the Cato Ridge Smelter.6
In 2009 a survey by consulting engineers Moore Spence Jones revealed significant pollution of underground and surface water by the Cato Ridge operation. Cyanide, mercury and other poisonous heavy metals were discovered. The survey also revealed measurable levels of such poisons in streams or shallow boreholes more than 1km from the factory and indications of other forms of pollution up to 2km away.7
A 2010 thesis considered the environmental impact of Dwarsrivier mine and concluded that, “mining activities at Dwarsrivier mine may be contributing to environmental pollution, particularly to groundwater”.8
In response to a PAIA request submitted by the CER for records indicating the names of mines and industrial facilities in respect of which notices or directives under the National Water Act have been issued, the Department of Water & Sanitation responded with information which indicated that Modikwa Platinum Mine (a joint Amplats and ARM operation) and Two Rivers Platinum Mine (an ARM operation) were issued with notices under the National Water Act on 29 January 2014 and 30 July 2014 respectively. ARM failed to report on the notice issued to Modikwa Platinum Mine in the 2014 annual report. The notice received by Two Rivers Platinum Mine was issued outside of the 2014 reporting period.
- http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPJHC/2016/97.html (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
- http://mg.co.za/article/2016-05-13-landmark-silicosis-ruling-allows-class-action-against-gold-firms (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
- http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPJHC/2016/97.html at para 58-60 (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
- https://www.miningreview.com/news/court-grants-gold-miners-leave-to-appeal-silicosis-judgement/ (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
- http://www.miningweekly.com/article/lsquoassmang-failed-to-react-immediately-to-warning-about-cato-ridge-furnacersquo-2008-05-02 and http://www.environment.co.za/poisoning-carcinogens-heavy-metals-mining/manganism-manganese-poisoning.html (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
- http://www.miningweekly.com/article/lsquoassmang-failed-to-react-immediately-to-warning-about-cato-ridge-furnacersquo-2008-05-02 (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
- http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-199855828.html (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
- Environmental impacts of chrome mining on the Assmang Chrome Dwarsrivier Mine by Tshengedezi Remember Mmbengwa, Thesis (MTech: Environmental Management) Tshwane University of Technology, 2010, available at: http://encore.tut.ac.za/iii/cpro/DigitalItemViewPage.external;jsessionid=8E9468B60B28C8DEBFE25CDBFA5F4F0B?lang=eng&sp=1000639&sp=T&sp=1&suite=def, at p71.