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Full Disclosure 2016

Environmental non-compliances reported by affected communities, the media, & NGOs

2016 update

On 27 June 2016, ActionAid South Africa released a report1 detailing the alleged effects of Amplats’ Mogalakwena Mine in Mapela, Limpopo. The report claims that “[i]n the villages located close to the mine, there are strong complaints about the environmental impacts of the mine. Air pollution and damage to houses are among the main complaints”.2 The report also claims that “the central role of land-based livelihoods has been undercut by the mine-related land displacements”.3 The report labels the effect of mining activities on agriculture as a “livelihood crisis” that “manifests itself in the inability of rural households to grow their own food which has resulted in widespread food insecurity”.4

Community complaints regarding Amplats’ Twickenham mine were also raised at the South African Human Rights Commission’s National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-Affected Communities in South Africa, held in September and November 2016.

According to a Moneyweb report published on 29 September 2016,5 a representative of Mampa Serole Tribal Community present at the hearing raised serious concerns about the Twickenham mine being placed on care and maintenance leading to the retrenchment of 1000 people, as the project was expected to “transform his community’s economic fortunes”. He stated that Amplats “lured us to sell them our farms, ploughing fields and grazing land cheaply with the promise that they were going to give us sustainable jobs and they said the operations would last for more than 100 years.” He further stated that “the communities no longer have drinking water” because “the mining operations had sucked all their underground waters and rivers dry”.

Panelists also asked Amplats whether it had carried out an assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impact of putting Twickenham under care and maintenance. Amplats was also asked why it considers its SLPs to be confidential.6

Full Disclosure 2015

Amplats’ environmental impacts are frequently reported on in the media.

A 2008 BBC investigation reported that water around Amplats’ mines in Limpopo had been tested and found unfit for human consumption, due to contamination with nitrates, which can cause stomach cancer and a potentially fatal blood disorder.7

Non-profit organisation ActionAid had carried out the water sampling referred to in the BBC investigation in late 2007, and the results of the sampling were also reported on in ActionAid’s 2008 report ‘Precious Metal, the Impact of Anglo Platinum on poor communities in Limpopo, South Africa’.

This report dealt in large part with the resettlement which had been carried out to expand Anglo Platinum’s Potgietersrus Platinum Limited (PPL) mine (now the Mogalakwena mine), but also referenced the discovery of serious water pollution by ActionAid at four sites (including two schools) near Amplats’ mines.8 It was claimed that whole communities had lost access to clean drinking water as it was unfit for human consumption and mining was the most likely cause of the pollution.

At three sites the water contained high levels of total dissolved salts and nitrates and although this could have been caused by raw sewage, the most probable cause was mining activities. At the fourth site the water contained high concentrations of total dissolved salts, sulphates and nitrates and again the cause was deduced to be mining activities. It was noted that such findings had raised concerns of health risks such as cancer.9

Amplats published a response to ActionAid entitled ‘The Facts’, which included the following statements,

Anglo Platinum has an extensive on-site surface and ground water monitoring programme. It does not however sample all water sources used by the surrounding communities as this is the responsibility and function of the Department of Water Affairs.

Excessive nitrates concentrations are a common form of water pollution, including in areas with no history of mining. The most common causes include seepage of untreated sewage and poor application of agricultural fertilizers. Water results around the mine have shown slightly elevated levels of nitrate in close proximity to communities and this is attributed to sewerage run-off and pit latrine systems, as these communities have no formal sewerage systems.

Results show that there are slightly elevated concentrations of nitrates and sulphates immediately adjacent to the tailings dam.

Anglo Platinum would welcome the opportunity to get the full details of exactly where samples were taken by ActionAid so that if there is indeed a water problem it can be addressed.10

A second edition of ‘The Facts’ stated:

The results do indeed indicate a worrying level of nitrates at Langalibalele High School in Ga-Molekana, confirming ActionAids results. The other samples fall within Class I. However, ActionAid’s assumption that elevated nitrate levels at the school are a result of mining is, from our comprehensive geohydrological modelling and water signature testing, unfounded and unproven. We maintain that these levels are caused by contamination from pit latrines located close to the school, agricultural practices and/or as a result of the underlying geology. Further independent studies will be commissioned by Anglo Platinum to double check these findings.11

The SAHRC subsequently made investigations into and published a report on the resettlement process carried out by PPL. This 2008 report contained a number of recommendations regarding the environment and mine blasting, including the following:

PPL demonstrate its ability to constantly monitor the impacts of mining activities on surrounding communities and illustrate how this monitoring is used in conjunction with the grievance redress mechanism to ensure that any potentially negative impacts of the mine both from PPL’s and the community’s perspective are addressed promptly.

PPL implement a process by which all community members are moved from the area during blasting to not only appease the potentially real risk posed to individuals from the blasting itself, but to address the perception of that risk felt in many communities in the area. Moving the community members at Ga-Chaba during the blasting would also ensure that those community members no longer feel isolated from the protection which PPL are demonstrably awarding members of surrounding communities.

PPL adhere to the Anglo Platinum commitment ‘to prevent or minimise adverse impacts arising from the Group’s operations’ 12

PPL inform the communities as to their long term plans for mining in the area. It is an apparent commercial reality that mining is undertaken in phases which are determined at various points in time. However, the very real and disruptive impact of this phasing of activities on the communities and the accompanying uncertainty with which these communities live must also be realised and addressed.13

It was also noted in the SAHRC 2008 report that Amplats had carried out its own water testing which contradicted ActionAid’s findings.14 A 2009 report is also available containing the results of an in-house study carried out by Anglo American, which again disputes many of ActionAid’s findings.15 It is stated in the report that studies were carried out by both in-house and external independent researchers, and the report contained the results of the in-house study.16 Also, despite much disagreement with ActionAid findings in the report, the report concluded with the statement:

The extent to which nitrate fluxes from the low δ15N-δ18O nitrate end-member to the groundwater are natural or are enhanced/caused by mining-related activities is [sic] subject of ongoing investigation.17

In conjunction with the above report the SAHRC published a report on community discussions it had carried out in Limpopo in December 2008. In discussions with the Ga-Chaba community, which is located near the PPL mine, complaints were made regarding the levels of dust pollution in the community.18 Blasting and noise from the mine were also problems in this community. In discussions with the Motlhotlo community, which borders the PPL mine, community members complained about the quality of water in the area.19

It appears that these problems persist. In a 2013 news article, residents who had been resettled to make way for the PPL mine expansion made statements relating to Amplats’ failure to keep promises made to those relocated. One resident stated, “(h)ow can you move into a place where, besides the water scarcity, has water that has been polluted?”20

In a 2013 report on the Mogalakwena mine, prepared by mining consultants SRK Consulting on behalf of Amplats, it was recorded that environmental issues had been raised by local communities during the public participation process. Such problems included dust, noise, impacts on soil condition and agriculture, soil erosion, increase in salinity of underground water, contamination of rivers by water flowing from waste dump site, deterioration of water quality during heavy rains and uncontrolled disposal of waste.21 More than once a complaint was made about “greenish substances” seen in the water.22

In a 2012 report by the non-profit Bench Marks Foundation, ‘Communities in the Platinum Minefields’, it is stated that, “Anglo Platinum itself admits to exceeding permitted emission levels of sulphur dioxide (SO₂) and harmful impacts on water resources in the area. The Bench Marks Foundation is concerned that the corporation reports only a 63% compliance with 688 conditions requiring legal compliance.”23 The harmful impacts on water mentioned in the Bench Marks report included high concentrations of nitrates, chlorides and sulphates in ground and surface water around the company’s mine tailings and rock dumps.24

In early 2015, the Department of Environmental Affairs granted Amplats’ application for a postponement of its obligation to comply with new minimum emission standards for SO₂ under the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act. The new standards would have been applicable from 1 April 2015, but Amplats’ exemption enables it to delay compliance, i.e. to emit more SO2 than is allowed under the new legislation, until 2020.25

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 Bokani Platinum Mine was issued with a notice in terms of the National Water Act on 12 May 2015. Bokani Platinum Mine is wholly owned by Bokani Platinum Holdings. Amplats has a significant shareholding in Bokani Platinum Holdings.26 The response also indicated that Modikwa Platinum Mine (a joint Amplats and ARM operation) was issued with a notice under the National Water Act on 29 January 2014. Amplats failed to report this in their 2014 annual report.

  1. Precious Metals II – A Systemic Inequality, Action Aid South Africa, 27 June 2016, available at: http://actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/precious_metals_ii_full_report.pdf (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
  2. Precious Metals II – A Systemic Inequality, Action Aid South Africa, 27 June 2016, at p4, available at: http://actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/precious_metals_ii_full_report.pdf (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
  3. Precious Metals II – A Systemic Inequality, Action Aid South Africa, 27 June 2016, at p4, available at: http://actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/precious_metals_ii_full_report.pdf (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
  4. Precious Metals II – A Systemic Inequality, Action Aid South Africa, 27 June 2016, at p5, available at: http://actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/precious_metals_ii_full_report.pdf (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
  5. "Twickenham mine fails communities", Moneyweb, 29 September 2016 , available at: http://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/companies-and-deals/fruitless-slps-twickenham-a-case-in-point/ (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
  6. "Twickenham mine fails communities", Moneyweb, 29 September 2016 , available at: http://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/companies-and-deals/fruitless-slps-twickenham-a-case-in-point/ (last accessed on 7 November 2016).
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7312018.stm (last accessed on 7 August 2015) and http://www.mining-technology.com/news/news4312.html (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  8. Precious Metal: The Impact of Anglo Platinum on poor communities in Limpopo, South Africa, by ActionAid, at p5, available at http://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/doc_lib/angloplats_miningreport_aa.pdf
  9. Precious Metal: The Impact of Anglo Platinum on poor communities in Limpopo, South Africa, by ActionAid, at p18, available at http://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/doc_lib/angloplats_miningreport_aa.pdf
  10. The Facts, First edition, by Anglo American Platinum, at p20.
  11. The Facts, Second edition, by Anglo American Platinum, at p20, available at http://www.angloamerican.com/~/media/Files/A/Anglo-American-Plc/media/releases/2008pr/2008-04-14/2008-04-14.pdf
  12. Anglo Platinum, ‘Environmental Impacts’, accessed 29 July 2008
  13. Mining-related observations and recommendations: Anglo Platinum, affected communities and other stakeholders, in and around the PPL Mine, Limpopo, by the South African Human Rights Commission, at pviii to ix, available at http://www.reports-and-materials.org/sites/default/files/reports-and-materials/SAHRC-report-on-Anglo-Platinum-Nov-2008.pdf
  14. Mining-related observations and recommendations: Anglo Platinum, affected communities and other stakeholders, in and around the PPL Mine, Limpopo, by the South African Human Rights Commission, at p31 to 32, available at http://www.reports-and-materials.org/sites/default/files/reports-and-materials/SAHRC-report-on-Anglo-Platinum-Nov-2008.pdf
  15. Isotopic fingerprinting of groundwater nitrate sources around Anglo Platinum’s RPM Mogalakwena operation (Limpopo Province, South Africa) by C. Ihlenfeld, C.J. Oates, S. Bullock and R. Van Zyl, available at http://www.imwa.info/docs/imwa_2009/IMWA2009_Ihlenfeld.pdf
  16. Isotopic fingerprinting of groundwater nitrate sources around Anglo Platinum’s RPM Mogalakwena operation (Limpopo Province, South Africa) by C. Ihlenfeld, C.J. Oates, S. Bullock and R. Van Zyl, at p882 available at http://www.imwa.info/docs/imwa_2009/IMWA2009_Ihlenfeld.pdf
  17. Isotopic fingerprinting of groundwater nitrate sources around Anglo Platinum’s RPM Mogalakwena operation (Limpopo Province, South Africa) by C. Ihlenfeld, C.J. Oates, S. Bullock and R. Van Zyl, at  p891, available at http://www.imwa.info/docs/imwa_2009/IMWA2009_Ihlenfeld.pdf
  18. Report on Limpopo Community Discussion Forums, 2-4 December 2008, by the South African Human Rights Commission, at p13, available at http://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/Reports/Report%20on%20Site%20Visit%20to%20Mokopane%20-%20December%202008%20Final.pdf
  19. Report on Limpopo Community Discussion Forums, 2-4 December 2008, by the South African Human Rights Commission, at p17, available at http://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/Reports/Report%20on%20Site%20Visit%20to%20Mokopane%20-%20December%202008%20Final.pdf
  20. http://www.bdlive.co.za/businesstimes/2013/09/08/villagers-take-on-platinum-giant?service=print (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  21. Anglo American Platinum Limited: Mogalakwena Platinum Mine – Issues & Response Report for Proposed Projects, by SRK Consulting, at p2, available at http://www.srk.co.za/files/File/South-Africa/publicDocuments/Groot_Sandsloot/issues_responses_report_oct_2013_owea.pdf
  22. Anglo American Platinum Limited: Mogalakwena Platinum Mine – Issues & Response Report for Proposed Projects, by SRK Consulting, at p4, available at http://www.srk.co.za/files/File/South-Africa/publicDocuments/Groot_Sandsloot/issues_responses_report_oct_2013_owea.pdf
  23. Communities in the Platinum Minefields, A Review of Platinum Mining in the Bojanala District of the North West Province: A Participatory Action Research (PAR) Approach, Policy Gap 6, The Bench Marks Foundation, at p vi, available at http://www.bench-marks.org.za/research/rustenburg_review_policy_gap_final_aug_2012.pdf
  24. Communities in the Platinum Minefields, A Review of Platinum Mining in the Bojanala District of the North West Province: A Participatory Action Research (PAR) Approach, Policy Gap 6, The Bench Marks Foundation, at p 45, available at http://www.bench-marks.org.za/research/rustenburg_review_policy_gap_final_aug_2012.pdf
  25. http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2015-03-09-breathing-space-for-polluters-but-what-about-public-health/#.VV23ofmqqko (last accessed on 7 August 2015) and https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/airqualitymanagement_postponementapplications.pdf (last accessed on 7 August 2015).
  26. http://www.atlatsaresources.co.za/about-us/group-structure