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Post 2015 MDG: Submission on Sustainable Development Goals

Written by  Monday, 15 September 2014 09:31
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Submission by FSE to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs on post 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG).  

The following comments are submitted on behalf of the Federation for Sustainable Environment (FSE) pursuant to the hearings by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, which were held at Machavie, Matlwang Community Hall, Tlokwe Local Municipality on the 13th of September, 2014 and on invitation of the honourable Chairperson of the PPC on Environmental Affairs, the honourable Mr. Jackson Mthembu.

Summary

Mining is an important contributor to the South African economy but has the potential for significant negative impacts on the environment.
The impacts and costs associated with rehabilitation of mining operations after closure including the cost to human and environmental health and the social legacy of people employed, supported, and attracted to the mine and its surrounding areas are often delayed, and accumulate for decades after mineral extraction. These costs are not internalized but are borne by communities, a mute environment and future generations and not by the mining industry as would be expected. Called negative externalities, these deflected costs of mining are held artificially low while the benefits are exaggerated.
we respectfully appeal to the honourable Chairperson and Members of the PPC on Environmental Affairs, and the honourable officials within the Department of Environmental Affairs to, in the cost/benefit analysis, consider the costs associated with the life-time of the impacts and not only the costs associated with the impacts during the life-time of the mine, since the impacts may continue for hundreds of years after mine closure. In the absence of government interventions to compel mining companies to internalize their negative impacts, the social and environmental costs will be absorbed by the surrounding communities and other stakeholders. The externalization of costs to communities, particularly to the poor and disadvantaged, is conceived as unfair, inequitable and unpalatable, and in contravention of the polluter pays principle.

There is currently a lack of evidence that offsets are effective and actually achieving their intended outcomes. Many experts agree that there is a dearth of evidence to show that offset schemes actually achieve the intended biodiversity outcomes and that the case for offsets to achieve a positive conservation outcome has not been made.

The Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous complex, which includes the Greater Pilanesberg Area, is endowed with 80% of the world’s platinum and platinum group metals. The intense mining activities within the Greater Pilanesberg Area, however cause various environmental impacts due to externalities; these are impacts that place strains and limitations on the use of other natural assets beyond the mere extraction of platinum. These externality effects include impacts upon the quality and quantity of water, land use potential, sense of place, biodiversity the conservation potential of the area, and significant risks to the sustainability of tourism and eco-tourism within the region and future post-closure land-uses.

Issues pertaining to water

The Water Services Act and the National Water Act were designed to achieve the following:

[...] redress the inequalities of racial and gender discrimination of the past; link water management to economic development and poverty eradication; and ensure the preservation of the ecological resource base for future generations.

Many mining communities within the North West Province remain without access to water while some mines continue to modify the water table and divert river systems without water use licenses, with impunity.
More water is allocated for supply purposes than is feasible from an ecological, tourism and the communities’ requirements perspective.
The urgent need to meet the water demands of the mining industry within the unique Pilanesberg area has outweighed the rights of the rural poor to access to enough water to meet their basic human rights (e.g. drinking and food preparation), the rights of eco-tourism and tourism, which will provide post closure sustainable economic growth and job creation, and the right of the environment. This, we respectfully submit, has to be rectified.
The Department of Water Affairs’ National Water Resource Strategy-2 found that in 2025 all four international river basins will transition into Absolute Water Scarcity. This suggests that transboundary River Basins will become the focal point of future hydropolitical risks and economic viability with particular reference to the Limpopo, which likely will be the epicentre of sub-national economic stagnation and social decay.
The Limpopo River Basin, already over-allocated by about 120%, has an extremely high Water Crowding Index (i.e. 2000 persons per flow unit per year), and is facing a 241% increase in demand by 2025, that is more than 2.5 times the global norm for social cohesion.

The Department of Water Affairs’ Classification of Significant Water Resources in the Crocodile (West) Marico WMA and Matlabas and Mokolo Catchments: Limpopo WMA (WP 10506) Classification Report found that there will be a dramatic increase in water demands as a result of:

  • Current mining activities and proposed mining activities;
  • Sasol’s proposed Maphuta coal to liquid fuel projects;
  • The exploitation of the vast coal reserves in the Waterberg;
  • Exxaro’s Grootegeluk Colliery (largest open cast coal mine of its kind in the world);
  • The expansion of the Grootegeluk mine to supply the new Medupi Power Station with coal; and
  • Matimba and Medupi three new Eskom power stations in the future. (Pages 3 and 4 of the Classification Report.)

While the current revised water balance in terms Department of Water Affairs’ Status Report on the supply of water within the Crocodile West/Marico “continues to indicate a growing surplus of water in the system originating from growing treated wastewater generated in the urban areas of Northern Gauteng,” uncertainties remain.

The Department of Water Affairs also recognises the fact that “tourism plays an important role in stimulating accommodation, transport and retail sectors” and that “the tourism economy of the study area is an important contributor to regional GDP.” Significant tourism and eco-tourism opportunities and conservation opportunities are associated with Sun City, the Pilanesberg National Park, Madikwe National Park and the proposed Heritage Park within the unique Pilanesberg area.

Post-mining land use

The extractive industry is by its very definition unsustainable since it depletes a non-renewable resource. Mineral exploitation furthermore causes significant land use changes, generally irreversible destruction of ecosystems and loss in land capability.
Tourism and eco-tourism, on the other hand, are sustainable land uses and provide opportunities for sustainable job creation and economic growth in the post closure phase of the mines but unless the extent of cumulative and regional mining-related impacts on inter alia water resources, sense of place, biodiversity, air quality and soil within the Pilanesberg Area are factored in, in the approval of new mining rights and authorisation of environmental impact assessments and environmental management programmes, sustainable land use with associated water use in the post mine closure scenario will not be possible. The outcomes will result in economic and job stagnation, which will worsen poverty, and which will result in social decay.

Recommendations

  1. Establish a regional mine closure strategy for the mines within the Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous complex, including the Greater Pilanesberg Area in order to ensure sustainable development through mining. The current level of mine closure practice in South Africa shows that an urgent need for a holistic approach to closure planning.
  2. Determine the ecological reserve for the Crocodile West/Marico Water Management Area with the aim of promoting a strategic approach to water management at mining and processing sites to ensure water is managed efficiently and that the requirements of the ecology, tourism, eco-tourism and communities are sufficiently met.
  3. Determine the resource quality objectives of the rivers, wetlands, dams and groundwater within the Crocodile West/Marico Water Management Area
  4. Declare certain areas within the Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex as irreplaceable conservation and biodiverse areas in order to protect the high conservation potential and biodiversity of the area. The Pilanesberg region has a unique eco-tourism, tourism and conservation potential. These sustainable land uses are facing significant risks from environmentally deleterious activities, especially mining. The Pilanesberg National Park falls within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area, yet there are significant mining and proposed mining activities within this sensitive area. Open cast mining is particularly damaging to the environment and is consequently incompatible with environmental conservation. The importance of conserving tourism, conservation and eco-tourism is emphasized in the Moses Kotane Local Municipality’s Integrated Development Plans for 2013/2014.
  5. Establish an Environmental Management Framework for the region.

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SATURDAY STAR | 19 APRIL 2019, 7:41PM | SHEREE BEGA Picture:Yvette Descham On August 13 2013, Billy M heard gunshots at the gate of his house. He didn't know who fired the gun, and, worried that local traditional leadership might be involved, he didn't report the incident to the police. For the next five years, the community activist from Fuleni, a small rural village in KwaZulu-Natal bordering one of SA's oldest and largest wilderness areas, the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, continued to receive threats.  "We know our lives are in danger. This is part of the struggle," he says, simply. Billy M's account is contained in a new report released this week, 'We know Our  Lives Are in Danger’: Environment of Fear in South Africa’s Mining-Affected Communities, which documents how community activists in mining areas face harassment, intimidation and violence. The report details how in Billy M's case, mining company Ibutho Coal had applied for rights to develop a coal mine in Fuleni in 2013. The development would have required the relocation of hundreds of people from their homes and farmland and destroy graveyards. "The mine's environmental impact assessment estimated that more than 6000 people living in the Fuleni area would be impacted. Blasting vibration, dust, and floodlights, too, could harm the community," says the report."During the environmental consultation processes, Billy M led opposition that culminated in a protest by community members in April 2016."The company reportedly abandoned the project in 2016 while another firm, Imvukuzane Resources is reportedly interested in mining in the area.The 74-page report, compiled by Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork, and Earthjustice, describes a system designed to "deter and penalise" mining opponents.The authors conducted interviews with more than 100 activists, community leaders, environmental groups, lawyers representing activists, police and municipal officials, describing the targeting of community rights defenders in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northwest, and Eastern Cape between 2013 and 2018. They report intimidation, violence, damage to property, the use of excessive force during peaceful protests, and arbitrary arrest for their activities in highlighting the negative impacts of mining projects on their communities. "The attacks and harassment have created an atmosphere of fear for community members who mobilise to raise concerns about damage to their livelihoods from the serious environmental and health risks of mining and coal-fired power plants," write the authors."Women often play a leading role in voicing these concerns, making them potential targets for harassment and attacks."But municipalities often impose barriers to protest on organisers that have no legal basis while government officials have failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse."Some mining companies resort to frivolous lawsuits and social media campaigns to further curb opposition to their projects.  The government has a Constitutional obligation to protect activists," write the authors. Picture: Shayne Robinson, Section 27 Authorities should address the environmental and health concerns related to mining "instead of harassing the activists voicing these concerns,” remarks Matome Kapa, attorney at the CER.The report starts with the high-profile murder of activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who was killed at his home after receiving anonymous death threats in 2016. Rhadebe was the chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), a community-based organisation formed in 2007 to oppose mining activity in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape.  "Members of his community had been raising concerns that the titanium mine that Australian company Mineral Commodities Ltd proposed to develop on South Africa’s Wild Coast would displace the community and destroy their environment, traditions, and livelihoods. More than three years later, the police have not identified any suspects in his killing."Nonhle Mbuthuma, another Xolobeni community leader and spokesperson of the ACC, has also faced harassment and death threats from unidentified individuals. "I know I am on the hit list.… If I am dying for the truth, then I am dying for a good cause. I am not turning back," she says.But other mining areas have had experiences similar to that of Xolobeni. "While Bazooka’s murder and the threats against Nonhle have received domestic and international attention, many attacks on activists have gone unreported or unnoticed both within and outside the  country."This is, in part, because of "fear of retaliation for speaking out, and because police sometimes do not investigate the attacks", the authors found.The origin of these attacks or threats are often unknown. "So are the perpetrators, but activists believe they may have been facilitated by police, government officials, private security providers, or others apparently acting on behalf of mining companies. "Threats and intimidation by other community members against activists often stem from a belief that activists are preventing or undermining an economically-beneficial mining project. In some cases, government officials or representatives of companies deliberately drive and exploit  these community divisions, seeking to isolate and stigmatize those opposing the mine."The Minerals Council South Africa, which represents 77 mining companies, including some in the research areas, responded that it “is not aware of any threats or attacks against community rights defenders where (its) members operate”.The authors state that while the mining sector and the government emphasise how mining is essential for economic development, "they fail to acknowledge that mining comes at a high environmental and social cost, and often takes place without adequate consultation with,or consent of, local communities".The absence of effective government oversight means that mining activities have harmed the rights of communities across South Africa in various ways. "Such activities have depleted water supplies, polluted the air, soil, and water, and destroyed arable land and ecosystems."Researchers also documented cases of police misconduct, arbitrary arrest, and excessive use of force during protests in mining-affected communities, "which is part of a larger pattern in South Africa".Last year, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University documented various efforts by traditional authorities to stifle opposition to mines in their communities. "In some cases, traditional authorities label those opposing mines as anti-development and troublemakers, thus alienating and stigmatising them.As a result, community members are often afraid to speak out against a mine in open consultations," CALS found.Research by the SA Human Rights Commission, too, has found that community members sometimes “are afraid to openly oppose the mine for fear of intimidation or unfavourable treatment (by the Traditional Authority)."The SAHRC says many mining-affected communities are experiencing “the creation of tension and division within communities as a result of mining operations.Sometimes, threats and intimidation against activists come from community members who have been promised economic benefit from the proposed project or are politically allied with the government or traditional authority."Local communities often do not benefit from mining activities, says the report. "Although South African law requires the development of social and labour plans (SLPs) that establish binding commitments by mining companies to benefit communities and mine workers, CALS has documented significant flaws in the development and implementation of SLPs."Despite the environmental and social costs of mining, the government is not adequately enforcing relevant environmental standards and mining regulations throughout South Africa. The SAHRC has found that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) often fails to hold mining companies accountable, "imposing few or no consequences for unlawful activities and therefore shifting the costs of pollution to local communities."Compliance with regulatory obligations, as well as monitoring and enforcement of such responsibilities, remains a crucial concern in the context of mining activities," says the SAHRC, noting how the DMR and other governmental agencies often do not respond to complaints filed against mines by community members.The report's authors describe how the lack of government action and oversight has also helped make the mining industry one of the least transparent industries in South Africa. Information that communities require to understand the impacts of mines and to hold mining companies accountable for harmful activities is often not publicly available. "Such information includes environmental authorisations, environmental management programs, waste management licences, atmospheric emission licences, mining rights, mining work programmes, social and labour plans, or compliance and enforcement information."The only way to access such information is through a request under South Africa’s access to information law, a procedure that the World Health Organisation has called 'seriously flawed' and which the DMR regularly flouts. In addition, mining companies and the government rarely consult meaningfully with communities during the mining approval process, resulting in uninformed and poor government and industry decisions that do not reflect community perspectives or have their support," says the report.The authors assert how the threats, attacks, and other forms of intimidation against community rights defenders and environmental groups have created an environment of fear "that prevents mining opponents from exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and undermines their ability to defend themselves from the threats of mining".In its November 2018 review of South Africa’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about “reports of human rights defenders, particularly those working to promote and defend the rights under the Covenant in the mining and environmental sectors, being threatened and harassed". It recommended that South Africa provide a safe and favourable environment for the work of human rights defenders to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights, including by "ensuring that all reported cases of intimidation, harassment, and violence against human rights defenders are promptly and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice". Mining activist Mariette Liefferink, who made submissions to the UN committee, tells how it has become increasingly difficult to work as an environmental rights defender in South Africa.   "There is an overwhelming body of evidence of intimidation, whether it is by means of frontal attacks or more insidious attacks on activists."International and South African law requires South Africa to guarantee the rights of all people to life, security, freedoms of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and the rights to health and a healthy environment, say the authors."The attacks, threats, and obstacles to peaceful protest described in this report prevent many community activists in South Africa from exercising these rights to oppose or raise concerns about mines, in violation of South Africa’s obligations." 

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