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Monday, 20 July 2020 22:45

FSE's Report for June 2020

Find our report attached for download.

Mind the Gap consortium launched the new website www.mindthegap.ngo featuring five strategies corporations use to avoid responsibility for human rights abuses: 1.Constructing deniability; 2. Avoiding liability through judicial strategies; 3. Distracting and obfuscating stakeholders; 4.Undermining defenders and communities;  5. Utilising state power. These harmful strategies manifest themselves in a wide array of actions by corporations that obstruct justice, distort the facts and frustrate remedy for affected communities.

 

The Mintails case will be part of the evidence base for this website and Lonmin’s involvement in the Marikana massacre is also included. The case studies featured on the new website highlight the wide prevalence of harmful corporate strategies in practice and amplifies the urgent need to close the governance gaps that are sustaining a global system of corporate impunity.

 

Subjoined hereunder is the report on Mintails.

in South Africa

CASE STUDY: MINTAILS’ STRATEGIES OF DISENGAGEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA


Photo: SOMO

Last updated: 10th July 2020

The bankruptcy case of the South African mining company Mintails provides an example of irresponsible disengagement by investors, leaving the state of South Africa and the local communities around the mines with the burden of uncovered post-mining environmental rehabilitation costs.

Mintails S.A. (Mintails), a fully-owned subsidiary of Mintails Limited (MLI), held three mining rights in South Africa – West Wits Mining, Minerals and Mining Reclamation, and Mogale Gold. In the 2010s, Mintails was granted these mining rights by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), subject to adequate provision for environmental rehabilitation liability. However, the mining rights were never fully issued, as Mintails failed to provide multiple financial and social provisions.[1]

Despite the lack of a valid mining licence, Mintails was allowed to continue mining operations, amid numerous documented complaints of environmental contraventions.[2] After several statutory notices from DMR, in which the department asked Mintails to comply with environmental regulations and to provide adequate remedy for the damages it had caused, the Director General of DMR directed Mintails to provide a quarter of all the due costs in October 2014. The company was required to submit a six-month payment plan to provide the remaining sum.[3] Unable to raise this money, Mintails filed for business rescue a year later.[4]

Several actions by MLI and Mintails resulted in diminished environmental liability. First, Mintails hired two consultants who provided substantially downgraded estimates of the company’s liability for the environmental harms originating from its mining activities.[5] Second, in the midst of a business rescue, MLI divested itself from Mintails by proceeding to spin-off its South African subsidiary.[6] MLI was then renamed Orminex Limited,[7] completing what looks like a manoeuvre to avoid liability for the environmental reparations owed by Mintails.[8] Eventually, Mintails filed for liquidation during the summer of 2018,[9] leaving the state of South Africa and the local communities around the mines with the financial burden to cover post-mining environmental rehabilitation costs, estimated at over R460 million (approx. 35 million US$).[10]

As multiple sources argue, this turn of events could have been foreseen as Mintails had recognised that its activities could lead to bankruptcy. The company nonetheless decided not to secure the funds it owed for environmental repairs.[11] MLI’s separation from its South African subsidiary Mintails can be interpreted as a sign that the company aimed to avoid liability for the environmental damages created by its subsidiary.

Despite the South African Parliament recommending prosecution and civil suits on company directors and shareholders in their personal capacities so that some of the liability owed could be recovered, the National Prosecuting Authority has been silent on the matter to date. Observers have pointed out that this is unlikely to change in South Africa’s mining-dependant environment.[12]

In an attempt to achieve environmental restoration, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) filed a lawsuit to compel relevant government departments to hold companies and directors in the Mintails group to account for the environmental restoration costs. The first hearing is expected to take place on 12 August 2020.[13]

[1] South African National Assembly, “Report of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources on its oversight visit North West and Gauteng on the 13-14 September 2018, dated 07 November 2018”, Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (Cape Town: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 2018), 22-52, https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118553-Portfolio-Committee-on-Mineral-Resources-Final.html (accessed November 4, 2019).

[2] Gauteng Regional Head Office of the Department of Water and Sanitation of the Republic of South Africa, “Compliance Inspection for Mintails Mining SA Ltd: Mogale Gold,” December 18, 2014, https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118409-DWS-Inspection-Report.html(accessed November 4, 2019); Mariette Lifferink and Lucien Limacher, “Presentation to the Government Task Team on Mintails’ Alleged Environmental Contraventions,” April 19, 2018, https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3.sourceafrica.net/documents/118408/LRC-FSE-GTT-PRESENTATION-MINTAILS.pdf (accessed November 4, 2019).

[3] South African National Assembly.

[4] Lake, David, “Business Rescue Plan: Mintails Mining SA Proprietary Limited”, Mintails Gold SA Proprietary Limited and Mintails SA Randfontein Cluster Proprietary Limited (Johannesburg: Lake Strategic Solutions, 2016), 88., https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3.sourceafrica.net/documents/118411/BUSINESS-RESCUE-PLAN-161213-MSARC-Amended.pdf (accessed November 4, 2019).

[5] South African National Assembly.

[6] It is not completely clear which party purchased Mintails S.A and how the spin-off was eventually realised. The report by the Business Rescue Person David Lake mentions a shift of interests from Paige Limited to Mvest Capital, while the news website Businesslive mentions Paige as the sole creditor after liquidation. See point 5 and 6 in:  David Lake, “Notice in terms of sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the companies act, 2008″, Lake Strategic Solutions, JohannesburgAugust 1, 2018, p. 2, https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118415-180801-Notice-to-Affected-Parties-Mintails.html (accessed November 4, 2019) and Mark Olalde, “Mintails directors may face criminal charges”, December 11, 2018, Businesslive, https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2018-12-11-mintails-directors-may-face-criminal-charges/ (accessed November 4, 2019).

[7] James Thackray, “Mintails Limited: Effectuation of Deed of Company Arrangement,” HQ Advisory, June 6, 2017. (accessed November 4, 2019); Orminex Limited. “Orminex: 31 March 2018 Quarterly Report,” March 31, 2018. https://orminex.com.au/re-listing-update-and-change-of-asx-code/. (accessed June 21, 2020).

[8] In its email reply responding to a request to review this case study, Orminex writes: “we purchased the listed entity [MLI] as a shell company and have never had any association with the South African subsidiary [Mintails South Africa] referred to in your recent email correspondence” (email dated 5 February 2020). The research team has not been able to verify this information, although Mintails’ 2017 annual report, p.4, makes clear that MLI was recapitalised, possibly by new shareholders: https://orminex.com.au/category/annual-reports/

[9] Lake, David, “Notice in terms of sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the companies act, 2008”.

[10] Lake, David. “Notice in Terms of Sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the Companies Act, 2008,” 1 August 2018. https://dc.sourceafrica.net/documents/118415-180801-Notice-to-Affected-Parties-Mintails.html (accessed 21 June 2020).

[11] Bega; Olalde and Matikinca.

[12] South African National Assembly; Mark Olalde and Andiswa Matikinca, “Directors targeted for Mintails mess,” Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism, December 2018, https://oxpeckers.org/2018/12/mintails-directors -targeted/ (accessed 4 November 2019); Sheree Bega, “Illegal miners hit Mintails mine on West Rand,” IOL News, 1 June 2019, https://www.iol.co.za/ saturday-star/watch-illegal-miners-hit-mintails-mine-on-west-rand-24637889 (accessed 4 November 2019).

[13]  The federation for a sustainable environment. “FSE’s Notice of Motion and Founding Affidavit: Minitails Group,” September 6, 2019. https://www.fse.org.za/index.php/mining/item/703-fse-s-notice-of-motion-and-founding-affidavit-mintails-group (accessed June 21, 2020).; Bega, Sheree. “A Battle to Hold Mining Company Accountable.” IOL News, February 26, 2020. https://www.iol.co.za/saturday-star/a-battle-to-hold-mining-company-accountable-19518065 (accessed June 21, 2020).

 

 

Please visit www.mindthegap.nog  

Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms water quality and impacts river life.     Supplied
Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms water quality and impacts river life. Supplied

Article by Sheree Bega

The black, sewage-contaminated water that flows from the Rietspruit into the Loch Vaal is so polluted that even algae struggles to grow in its polluted depths.

“All we get is black sewage sludge in areas where there’s less current,” explains Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the Rietspruit in Vanderbijlpark.

But sightings of cyanobacteria blooms of toxic blue-green algae in the main Vaal River, caused by sewage, are becoming more frequent, particularly in summer, he says.

That the Vaal is becoming eutrophic is a real concern, says water scientist Professor Anthony Turton.

Eutrophication causes an overgrowth of algae that harms water quality, reduces oxygen, produces toxins, impacts river and marine life and affects food and human health.

“Once a water body becomes eutrophic and cyanobacteria becomes established, no known method in SA has ever been able to reverse that process,” Turton explains.

SA’s most eutrophic water is in Hartbeespoort Dam - the most studied of all systems. “Despite the very best scientists being unleashed on the problem, we have been unable to restore the system to its previous trophic status. With our current available knowledge, it’s safe to believe the Vaal is now becoming eutrophic and this is going to persist as the the new normal.”

Eutrophication is the “logical outcome” of discharging high levels of phosphates and nitrates into river systems - natural nutrients that drive the production of plant biomass. “Biomass typically takes two forms in SA - the familiar problem of water hyacinth at Hartbeestpoort Dam and the cyanobacteria blooms of blue-green algae that the Vaal is now succumbing to.”

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has now released its draft inception report for its National Eutrophication Strategy. The strategy, with its 10-year horizon, seeks to provide guidance to the DWS and water sector at large “on strategies to avoid, reduce, mitigate and manage the effects of eutrophication on SA’s water resources”.

It notes that the project was initially started in 2002 and “never completed” but was reinstated last year.

“The issue of eutrophication had not received adequate attention, previously, which could have been one of the reasons the situation exacerbated even more,” reads the report.

The Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM) Policies and Strategies for SA in 2016 and 2017 "emphasised eutrophication as one of the country’s pressing water-quality challenges, along with salinisation, acid mine drainage, urban pollution and sedimentation”, it states.

Eutrophication, says Turton, is an old problem that has now reached “catastrophic proportions” due mostly to the failure of the DWS in its role as national regulator. “DWS has allowed the Blue and Green Drop Reporting Standard to fall into dysfunction. This has allowed municipalities to act with impunity knowing they will never be sanctioned for non-compliance. The biggest culprit is the 824 wastewater treatment works (sewage plants) we have in every municipality. About 60% of them are now dysfunctional, so they collectively discharge over 5billion litres of sewage into our rivers daily. We draw our drinking water from those same rivers.”

No bulk water provider in the country that takes water from a river and produces potable water uses technology capable of removing the toxic by-product of eutrophic water: microcystin. “This is a potent molecule that is released when the cyanobacteria is distressed. The molecule becomes parts of the water and cannot be filtered out from the water.

“This means that South African citizens will increasingly be exposed to microcystin as long as our wastewater plants continue to fail.

“Eutrophication is a slow onset disaster that will plague SA for the next generation. The manifestation will increasingly be in the form of low dose but long-term exposure to microcystin. The coronavirus has merely added a new complication, because of the potential for faecal-oral transmission through contaminated rivers.”

Satellite work by the CSIR has already revealed that 60% of the country’s dams are eutrophic.


Sightings of blue-green algae, caused by sewage, is becoming more frequent, especially in summer. Supplied

In his 2015 paper, “Living with Eutrophication in SA: A review of realities and challenges”, scientist William Harding noted how the socio-economic well-being of SA is largely dependent on reservoir lakes, with between 41% and 76% of total storage eutrophic or hypertrophic.

“This is in stark contrast to a claimed 5% made by the DWS. Data and information on the incidence and toxicity of cyanobacterial blooms are sparse, yet severe problems exist The most seriously impacted reservoirs are located in the economic heartland of SA, which has an extant regional water-quality crisis.”

Many of SA’s rivers, reservoirs, and coastal lakes “no longer have the resilience to assimilate nutrients or sequestrate toxicants”, the paper found.

“The responsible agency (DWS) urgently needs to establish a reservoir management programme that embraces remaining individual and institutional memory, integrates all available knowledge and scientific findings, prioritises needs and acquires those skills and resources necessary to meet what is likely to become a crippling legacy of inaction.”

Eutrophication is a “big challenge and the situation is worsening”, says CSIR senior researcher Dr Melusi Thwala, who studies emerging environmental pollutants and water quality. “However, it is mostly dams/large impoundments that have historically faced such a challenge because they act as reservoirs in which pollutants such as nutrients can accumulate over time.

“For instance, in excess of 40% of approximately 500 large impoundments are eutrophic and others exhibit a character of non-natural nutrient enrichment.

“For river systems more and more cases are being observed but in smaller systems the rainy season can provide a dilution relief effect, but not so much in large systems such as the Vaal and Olifants rivers.”

Their hard-working nature means that large river systems receive continuous and large nutrient inputs from various anthropogenic (human-caused) activities, with “municipal wastewater treatment works being a priority input source due to their declining capacity to treat wastewater”.

“Simply put, the more human settlements, the more sewage waste is produced, sometimes exceeding the volumes that wastewater treatment works can handle. Agricultural and industrial activities also contribute nutrients into rivers,” Thwala says.

Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, says the most important drivers of eutrophication are dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems and sewage spills over many years into receiving streams.

“The tipping point has already been reached, beyond which, our ecosystems can no longer absorb and process the nutrients and other pollutants being passed on to it.”

The actions proposed by the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan is to by 2020, “identify and prosecute big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”.

“The above-mentioned actions must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy," she says. "Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the strategy impotent.”

Eutrophication is a core priority of the Integrated National Water Resource Strategy and was identified as an issue of concern by the DWS in 2009.

It was highlighted in the Continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy Study (Phase 2) in March last year as an "unaddressed issue of concern".

Tackling it is entirely reliant on activities performed within the DWS, catchment management agencies (CMAs), together with other institutions within the water sector, Liefferink says. “However, the lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to CMAs is a major issue of concern. The development of the strategy is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs become functional.”

Eutrophication is a "crisis of unprecedented proportions", says Turton made all the more problematic because few people outside of the aquatic sciences and environmental health community "are aware that such a problem even exists”.

Comments attached for download.

Monday, 29 June 2020 19:28

FSE's Report for May 2020

Find the report attached for download.

Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes. 
Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)
Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes.

Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)

Article by Sheree Bega | original article here.

On the map, Bernice Maritz lives in Connaught Avenue. But her family have another name for it: Shit Street.

A pool of sewage gathers like a dark stain on the street in Peacehaven or “Poohaven” as it’s been described, in Vereeniging.

The spillages are often far worse. “Usually our whole street is covered in sewage,” said Maritz. “That’s why my mom calls it 'Shit Street', because that’s all there is. The smell is terrible.”

She was home a few weeks ago when a stinking torrent of human waste flooded her yard. “It was horrible,” said Maritz, as she stepped across remnants of the spillage. “This whole area, everything, was covered in sewage. We had poo, toilet paper, condoms and nappies, all over our garden. The sewage went through the walls It’s so unhealthy to live like this, especially now with the coronavirus."

“This stopped being sewage a long time ago,” said local resident Tersia Venter, flicking through an endless stream of photos of sewage spills in the area on her phone. “If you can see human turds in the street, it’s not sewage anymore.” 

The Vaal’s sewage pollution crisis has hit hard in Vereeniging. Many of the region’s 44 pump stations remain dysfunctional, with the impact “particularly noticeable in Vereeniging, with ongoing high sewage pollution levels in the Vaal River and in the streets”, according to local environmental watchdog Save the Vaal Environment (Save).

Between Vereeniging and the Vaal Barrage, the river remains polluted, contaminating water supplies in Parys and communities further downstream.

The non-profit said Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had “taken a leadership role” in the R1.2 billion Vaal Intervention Project, which aims to repair Emfuleni municipality’s wastewater treatment system: a 2600 km pipe network, the 44 pump stations and three wastewater plants that collapsed in 2017. Still, “there’s a long way to go before we see a sewage and pollution-free Vaal River in the Emfuleni area”.

In recent months, the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (Erwat) took over from the SANDF, which could not complete its refurbishment programme as it was not properly funded.

“We did not really see any improvement in Peacehaven when the army was here and the only change we now see is when the trucks are here to pump out the sewage,” said Venter, the secretary of the Vereeniging community policing forum.

“It looks good today because these guys are here. But if they don’t come back within three days, then we sit with a major problem again. Most of the people here in Peacehaven can’t use their own freakin’ toilets and showers. The moment they do, the sewage spills over into their housesThey cannot walk from one side of their own freakin’ driveway to the other side because they’re walking through sewage. Since 2017, this has been normal to us and that’s unacceptable.”

For the last few months, sewage has no longer been permanently running in her street, said Zelda Mullen, who lives in Peacehaven. But it still pushes up from a manhole, pooling in her flowerbed. The stench is unbearable. “It's been here for years. We can't braai outside here. It stinks. God forbid, you start cooking."

She wondered if her family’s proximity to the sewage could have been to blame for her 63-year-old husband, developing life-threatening septicaemia in March.

“The doctors said it was probably airborne. He didn’t have an operation, no illness, nothing. So we don’t know if it was that (sewage), but hello, when you’ve lived with shit on your street and in your home ..."


Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging and into people’s homes. 

Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)

John was in ICU for 17 days and had kidney, liver and heart failure. “The kids had to come from the UK because we thought this was it. It will take a year-and-a-half for him to fully recover. We’re so sick of living in the Vaal.”

Across the country, the municipal sewage system has crumbled. The government's Water and Sanitation Master Plan reveals 56% of the 1150 municipal wastewater treatment works and 44% of the 962 water treatment works, are in a poor or critical condition, with 11% dysfunctional.

Between 1999 and 2011, the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with “some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery”.

Environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, said the Vaal River is the country’s most hard-working. “It’s a very important river system because it supplies water to 60% of the economy and 40% of the population and it augments other river systems like the Crocodile West and Limpopo river system ... What has happened to the Vaal is like a festering sore that took years to manifest.”

Since Erwat took over, it has unblocked pipes in the sewage network, but the "benefits will only be seen when all pump and treatment plants are fully operational,” said Save.

Erwat removed "50 tons of rubble in the system, cleaned 25km of lines, fixed or unblocked 383 manholes, replaced 460 manholes" and improved the flow to the three wastewater treatment works, according to Save member Mike Gaade.

The DWS was not extending Erwat’s one-year contract at month end and was “now directly responsible for this project”.

DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said negotiations were still under way. “Whether they continue or someone else takes over is something that will be finalised in a week or two.

“What they have done is what they were expected to, which is quite a good bit. There is improvement but it’s not optimal.

"Until we’re able to resolve the whole situation, we cannot rest on our laurels,” he said.


South Africa - Johannesburg - 18 June 2020 - Mike Gaade from Rietspruit in the Vaal talks about how the sewage continues to spill and affect the river.
Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Rietspruit suffers the consequences of ineffective wastewater treatment

The completion of expansion to the Sebokeng wastewater treatment plant is a step in the right direction, says Save. “This project started several years ago and came to a standstill in 2018 due to lack of funds. It was 96% complete at that point. Under the Minister’s watch, this project was restarted in mid-May 2020. July 2020 seems to be a realistic completion date.”

The new module will treat about one third of the Sebokeng treatment plant’s wastewater when operational. The rest of the Sebokeng plant has not been working since it was vandalised two years ago. “Work is required on that plant so that the remaining two thirds of sewage can be properly treated.”

There is no information about when effluent pumped into the Rietspruit from this plant will be fully compliant with required standards, it says.

“Work is required on the Rietspruit plant, which is currently operating at some 30% of its capacity and has been deteriorating for years. Yet, its repair programme has been left continuously on the back burner.

"This plant continues to be a major contributor to pollution of the Rietspruit and Vaal Rivers, and has caused a build-up of some 1.5m of black sludge on the riverbed where the Rietspruit enters Loch Vaal.”

It continues to pump poorly-treated sewage into the Rietspruit. Save's Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the polluted Rietspruit, has gone from optimistic to "mildly pessimistic" in the last six months.

“All the promises we get have not been fulfilled ... It's about four years that the sewage sludge has been coming down here to the Rietspruit but it got really bad in November 2017. It's a bit better, partly because they've unblocked some of the pipes and got the flow going ... The sewage crisis affecting everywhere from the Klip the other side of Vereeniging right through the whole town and in the streets and then it's affecting Parys."

In October, Save agreed to suspend litigation to give the intervention team an opportunity to show progress, but it warns that unless there’s a drastic improvement, it will continue court proceedings.

By: Nelendhre Moodley | original article here.

Following poor water control measures over the years, South Africa now finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place as its dire water situation continues to worsen. Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu recently launched South Africa’s National Water and Sanitation Master Plan – but is the plan too little too late? Infrastructure recently caught up with the Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s CEO Mariette Liefferink for a view on exactly how severe South Africa’s water challenges really are and whether the country will be able to meet its sustainable development goals in relation to water by 2030.

Citing the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan’s Call to Action launched in November 2019, Liefferink says the document highlighted South Africa’s shocking water situation, with 56% of wastewater treatment works and 44% of water treatment works reported as being in a poor or critical condition, with 11% dysfunctional.

“More than 50% of South Africa’s wetlands have been lost, and of those that remain, 33% are in poor ecological condition. Furthermore, between 1999 and 2011 the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery. In addition, municipalities are losing about 1 660 million cubed metres per year through non-revenue water – this includes all water supplied that isn’t paid for, including physical water losses through leaks in the distribution system, illegal connections, unbilled consumption and billed, but unpaid, water use. At a unit cost of R6/m3 this amounts to R9.9-billion each year.”

Added to this are the delays in the implementation of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (to augment the Vaal River System for greater Gauteng), the uMkhomazi Water Project Phase 1 (to augment the Mgeni System for the KwaZulu-Natal Coastal Metropolitan Area) and the augmentation of the Western Cape Water Supply System, which have significantly impacted on water security, and subsequently on the socio-economies of the areas.

“If demand continues to grow at current levels, the deficit between water supply and demand could be between 2.7 and 3.8 billion m3/a by 2030, a gap of about 17% of available surface and groundwater,” notes Lifferink.

Given the severity of South Africa’s water challenges, the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan called for the following interventions:

  • Revitalisation of the Green, Blue and No Drop programmes and the publication of results annually.
  • Identification and prosecution of major non-compliant abstractors (water thieves) across the country, with a national communication campaign to accompany the action by 2020.
  • Identifying and prosecution of big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action by 2020.
  • Declaration of strategic water source areas and critical groundwater recharge areas and aquatic ecosystems recognised as threatened or sensitive as protected areas by 2021.
  • Review and promulgation of aggressive restrictions within the legislation to restore and protect ecological infrastructure by 2020.
  • Secure funds for restoration and ongoing maintenance of ecological infrastructure through operationalising the water pricing strategy annually.
  • Establishing financially sustainable Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) across the country, and transferring staff and budget and delegated functions, including licensing of water use and monitoring and evaluation of water resources by 2020.
  • Establishment of a National Water Resources and Services Authority and Regulator by 2020.

“Although government had planned to have these measures in place, at the time of writing the FSE was not aware that any progress had been achieved on the targeted areas,” says Liefferink. “We hope that the impact of the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan will be delivered through action, and through the recognition that ‘you cannot drink paper plans’.”

Given the depth of South Africa’s water challenges, is there a chance of meeting its sustainable development goals (SDGs)?

In 2015, South Africa committed to adopt the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including Sustainable Development Goal 6 which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Included in the SDG report, says Liefferink, is target 6.3 which is focused on improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and reuse globally by 2030; with target 6.6 looking to protect and restore water-related ecosystems.

“According to the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation’s River EcoStatus Monitoring Programme State of Rivers Report 2017-2018, only 15% of South Africa’s rivers are in a good condition and the Vaal River Water Management Area has no sites that are in a good condition; and according to the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) National Biodiversity Assessment: The Status of South Africa’s Ecosystems and Biodiversity, two-thirds of the total length of South Africa’s rivers are in a poor ecological condition.”

Furthermore, the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Directorate’s presentation on wetlands and lakes noted that the SA National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) 2018 indicated that while 6% of wetlands were protected, 79% were in the threatened category.

In addition, “despite the interventions of the SA Defence Force, Ekurhuleni Water Care Company, the minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and the South African Human Rights Commission in the pollution caused by spillages of raw sewage into the Vaal River, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Rand Water’s quarterly water quality results show that the in-stream quality of water at the Rietspruit at Sebokeng has E. coli counts of 9 188 000per 100ml. The regulatory limit is 400 counts per 100ml. E. coli in water is a strong indication of sewage or animal waste contamination. In light of these factors, it is difficult to see how South Africa will reach its SDG by 2030,” says Liefferink.

Tackling our water woes

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Liefferink has painted a dire picture of South Africa’s water situation. But can new legislative interventions and the mining industry’s endeavours curb the downward slide?

While practical on-the-ground developments remain sluggish, government has made some headway through the promulgation of new water rules and regulations, which include the Water and Sanitation Department’s publication (a collaboration with the Minerals Council) called Benchmarks for Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) In the Mining Sector.

The commodity-based national water use efficiency benchmark aims to guide the acceptable levels of water usage by the mining industry, and to improve water use efficiency within the mining operations.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Affairs has published the Proposed Regulations pertaining to Financial Provisioning for the Rehabilitation and Remediation of Environmental Damage caused by reconnaissance, Prospecting and Exploration which notes that “financial provision must guarantee the availability of sufficient funds for the remediation and management of residual and latent environmental damage including the ongoing pumping and treatment of polluted or extraneous water”.

According to Liefferink, this in essence means that the CEO or business rescue practitioner of the company is responsible for implementing the rehabilitation plans.

“What is new is the fact that the liquidator or business rescue practitioner is also responsible for the determination of the financial provision and the implementing the rehabilitation plans and report.”

Liefferink also flags the South African Human Rights Commission which has directed the Department of Water and Sanitation to comply with the following:

  • Include in their annual reports the number of compliance notices or other sanctions imposed including the proportion of successful interventions and/or criminal prosecutions undertaken against non-compliance.
  • Take definitive steps to ensure legal protection of our water sources areas through the deployment ofthe relevant legislative tools in place.
  • Provide a report on the current state of water monitoring, including:
    • Conducting regular determination of the water reserve, including how the DWS accounts for anticipated migration and population growth, limitations or inadequacies in municipal infrastructure as well as other potential impacts on the availability of water resources, such as drought.
    • Audit on all existing water-use licences to ensure they adequately protect the water reserve, including basic needs and ecological requirements.
    • Monitor compliance with water-use licences and its impacts, particularly in mining areas, and the impact mining has and will have on the water reserve and how this aligns with the National Strategic Plan for Water.

The FSE has yet to receive a response on the Human Rights Commission’s progress in relation to the directives, says Liefferink, however the mining industry has been more proactive in progressing its water agenda, especially Sibanye-Stillwater and DRDGOLD.

Diversified mining house Sibanye-Stillwater, which was recognised as the most ‘collaborative’ and ‘water-saving’ company in the local mining industry by Rand Water in November last year, has participated in the creation of the Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) Assessment Tool.

In line with its water-wise agenda, the miner has a number of initiatives under way including:

  • Potable water independence: using alternative available groundwater sources and rainwater harvesting to help reduce its reliance on purchased water sources.
  • Reduce water loss through:
    • implementing effective real-time metering, water balance management reporting, proactive leak detection and immediate repair initiatives.
    • minimising losses of water through evaporation and seepage by optimising the density of tailings deposition and recovering and recycling of water at our tailing facilities.
    • improving water-use efficiency by tracking and managing water-use efficiency KPIs for all consumers.

Gold surface retreatment company DRDGOLD too continues to progress its water conservation plans, which include reclamation interventions at its operations aimed at removing sources of pollution, rehabilitating targeted areas and enhancing ecosystem functioning, including attraction of fauna and flora, and improved water quality, among others.

“We hope that more mining companies will be proactive rather than reactive as far as mine water management is concerned and that businesses will realise that water security presents a critical and profound challenge to South Africa’s social well-being and economic growth. Poor water quality is one of the major threats to South Africa’s ability to provide sufficient water of suitable quality that can support development needs. The financial resources currently available for managing water quality are insufficient for the task, and do not recognise the level of investment that is required to counteract the economic harm done by declining water quality,” says Liefferink.


Image: Jozi Gold ©Maanda-Nwendamutswu

 

‘n Voortgesette en oormatige geraas van die Tiger Brands fabriek in die industriële gebied het inwoners in die Suiddorp genoodsaak om die fabriek vir geraasbesoedeling aan te kla.

Tiger Brands in Potchefstroom word van geraasbesoedeling aangekla.
 

‘n Voortgesette en oormatige geraas van die Tiger Brands fabriek in die industriële gebied het inwoners in die Suiddorp genoodsaak om die fabriek vir geraasbesoedeling aan te kla.

Een van die inwoners, Sarel Eloff, wat vir 43 jaar in Pepplerstraat woon, sê die geraas het al in November 2019 begin. Hy het die fabriek in Desember geskakel om formeel ‘n klag in te dien, maar is aangeraai om dit aan die begin van Januarie 2020 te doen, omdat die fabriek in Desember gesluit het. Hy het op 4 Januarie ‘n e-pos aan Cornelius Mtshali gestuur wat die ontvangs van die brief erken het en dit ook aan ander personeellede, onder meer die fabrieksbestuurder en ‘n ingenieur, aangestuur het.

Mtshali het na ‘n klep aan die agterkant van die “ace plant” verwys en voorgestel om Momentum vir ‘n geraasopname te nader.

Intussen het die inwoners gewag dat die probleem opgelos moet word. Aan die begin van Mei het ‘n polisiebeampte die Herald gebel en gevra dat daar ondersoek ingestel moet word, omdat daar niks aan die geraasbesoedeling gedoen word nie. “Die geraas duur dag en nag voort. Ek werk skofte en is desperaat omdat ek nie kan slaap nie,” het hy gesê.

Ander inwoners het hulle ontevredenheid met die geraas op die Potchefstroom Facebookblad gedeel. Een daarvan was Magda Kroukamp wat op 4 Mei om 21:35 skryf: “Naand almal, ons bly in Chris Hanistraat. Ons hoor ‘n harde snaakse geluid buite. Kan dit nie beskryf nie, maar dis irriterend. Wie hoor dit ook?” Adelle Kock reageer op dieselfde boodskap en skryf: “Ja dit irriteer baie mense en Tiger Brands doen niks daaraan nie.”

Die Herald het daarna ‘n fabrieksbestuurder van Tiger Brands geskakel om te hoor of hulle van die klagtes bewus is. Hy het gesê dat hy niks daarvan af weet nie, maar dat hy sal ondersoek instel.

Inwoners het hulle klagtes aan raadslid Johan Zerwick oorgedra wat weer op sy beurt ‘n gesondheidsinspekteur van J.B Marks genader het. Thebe Gaonnwe, waarnemende bestuurder vir munisipale gesondheid van die Dr. Kenneth Kauda distrik munisipaliteit, is tans aangestel om die saak verder te ondersoek. Gaonnwe het die Herald verseker dat hulle eersdaags beplan om ‘n telefoniese onderhoud met die bestuur van Tiger Brands te voer en dat hulle dit later met ‘n skriftelike kennisgewing sal opvolg.

Die Herald het intussen Mariëtte Liefferink, die hoof uitvoerende beampte van “The Federation for a Sustainable Environment” gekontak, om meer agtergrond oor geraasbesoedeling te kry.

Sy sê dat geraasbesoedeling deel is van omgewingswetgewing wat in die grondwet vervat is. Die grondwet lê neer dat almal die reg het op ‘n omgewing wat nie skadelik vir hulle gesondheid en welstand is nie.

Liefferink sê dat geraasbesoedeling net so skadelik vir mense is as enige ander besoedeling. “Blootstelling aan voortgesette of oormatige geraas kan gesondheidsprobleme veroorsaak wat stres, swak konsentrasie, verlies aan produktiwiteit by die werk en uitputting weens ‘n gebrek aan slaap tot gevolg het. In meer ernstige gevalle kan dit lei tot kardiovaskulêre siektes, kognitiewe gebreke, tinnitus en gehoorverlies.”

Sy haal die Nasionale Omgewingsbestuurswet 107 van 1998 aan wanneer sy besoedeling verduidelik en sê dat besoedeling enige verandering in die omgewing is wat ‘n negatiewe uitwerking op die gesondheid en welstand van die mens het.

Verder verduidelik sy steurende geraas en sê dat dit volgens die geraasregulasies van 1998 verklaar kan word. “Steurende geraas in terme van die geraasregulasies van 1998 beteken die vlak van geraas oorskrei die omringende klankvlak wat deurlopend op dieselfde meetpunt van 7dBA gemeet word. Die dBA beteken die waarde van die klankdruk vlak in desibels. “Steurende geraas beteken enige geluid wat ‘n persoon se gemak en vrede versteur of belemmer,” sê Liefferink.

Gemeet aan Liefferink se verduideliking van geraasbesoedeling, is dit dus duidelik dat die Suiddorp aan geraasbesoedeilng blootgestel word.

Liefferink sê verder dat plaaslike gesag moet vasstel of die geraas bo die aanvaarbare norm is. Munisipale gesondheid is dus hiervoor verantwoordelik en moet ‘n skrywe rig aan die persoon/instansie wat die geraas veroorsaak waarin hulle aangespreek moet word om die geraas te stop of om die vlakke van geraas te verminder.

Die Herald het Tiger Brands vir kommentaar genader en gevra wat hulle beplan om die geraasbesoedeling op te los.

Mediawoordvoerder van Tiger Brands, Kanyisa Ndyondya, sê hulle het dadelik die klagte van die publiek opgevolg en het die departement van Arbeid se goedgekeurde inspeksieowerheid genader om ‘n omtrek geraasopname te doen.

“Die opname het aangedui dat ‘n hoër vlak van geraas (5 desibels hoër) in die nag by die oostelike kant van die fabriek voorkom, wat toegeskryf kan word aan die waaier wat by die area geïnstalleer is. Om die probleem op te los, het die fabriek se ingenieur ‘n knaldemper (silencer) by die waaier geïnstalleer.

Ndyondya sê verder dat hulle ‘n onafhanklike derde party met die nodige kundigheid en toerusting genader het om die situasie te evalueer en hulle verwag dat dit deur die loop van die week afgehandel sal wees. “Dit sal die fabriek in staat stel om die mees betroubare en akkurate inligting aan die aangrensende gemeenskap te verskaf.

Ndyondya sê verder dat Tiger Brands die gemeenskap bedank vir hulle volgehoue ondersteuning. Hulle verseker die inwoners ook dat hulle toegeweid is om die probleem op te los.

by Venessa van Der Westhuizen | original article here.

The following comments are submitted – with diffidence and deference - on behalf of the Federation for Sustainable Environment (FSE). The FSE is a member of a number of theDepartment of Water and Sanitation’s Steering-, Project- and Strategy Steering Committees, Implementation Task Teams; Expert Steering Committees; the WSSLG’s SDG6 Task Teamand a number of Catchment Management Forums.

From a reading of the Inception Report in terms of the Development of the National Eutrophication Strategy we deduce that the Scope of Work will include inter alia a report on eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes; the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy; putting the Strategy into Practice detailing the actions, the roles and timeframes; developing a monitoring and reporting system; stakeholder involvement; etc. The estimate timeframes from the 1st component to the implementation of the Strategy (“putting the Strategy into Practice”) will be approximately 20 months.

While we welcome the development of actions that would provide the detail necessary to turnthe National Eutrophication Strategy into action (s 2.4 of the Inception Report, titled “Strategyinto Practice”), such as the assignment of roles and responsibilities and the timeframes for undertaking the actions, it is the FSE’s considered opinion that it is not necessary to wait forthe development of the National Eutrophication Strategy to immediately implement a number of actions to address the challenges of eutrophication. Analogous to the FSE’srecommendation, the IWQM Policy identified eutrophication already in 2016 as one of the five aspects of water pollution as being priorities for immediate regulatory action at the national level.

The following challenges were identified by the DWS, which require immediate action:

1. The lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to catchment management agencies

page1image26058816page1image26066304page1image26058048

The Inception Report on page 1 informs us that “this project is entirely reliant on activities performed within the Department, the CMAs, together with other institutions within the watersector”.

It is common cause that the number of WMAs was reduced from nineteen (19) to nine (9) in 2013 and that the establishment of the CMAs has been slow. By the end of 2016, only two of the nine CMAs were established in terms of the National Water Act, 36 of 1998 and functional. No functions have been delegated to these bodies which are therefore currently only responsible for the limited initial functions of a CMAs as set out in the Act. DWS acts as CMAs in most of the country.

The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, 2018 called for the establishment of financially sustainable CMAs across the country and transfer of staff and budget1 and delegate functions including licensing of water use and monitoring and evaluation of water resources by 2020.

Atthetimeofwritingweareunawareofanyprogressinthisregard. ThedevelopmentoftheNational Eutrophication Strategy (“the project”) is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs becomefunctional.

2. Dysfunctional Waste Water Treatment Works

A key contributor to the deterioration of water quality of South Africa’s water resources and the marked increase in nutrients and microbiological contaminants with associated health risks is the result of untreated or partially treated municipal wastewater discharges from sewage treatment works.

To exemplify:

The recent instream water quality results of the Rietspruit@Sebokeng within the Rietspruit Catchment Management Area as provided by Rand Water show an e-coli count of 9,188,000 per 100ml for the period January to March 2020.

The resulting eutrophication in major dams has caused health threats to livestock and humans.

We are of the considered opinion that the most important driver of eutrophication is dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems, and sewage spills over many years into receiving steams2. The tipping point has already been reached, beyond which, our ecosystems can no longer absorb and process the nutrients and other pollutants being passed on to it.

The actions proposed by the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan is to, by 2020: “Identify and prosecute big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national

1 There are substantial financial shortfalls if Catchment Management Agencies are to be fully implemented and operationalized.

2 The state of our waste water treatment works (56% of waste water treatment works and 44% of water treatment works are in a poor of critical condition; 11% are dysfunctional) has significantly impacted upon the ability of downstream ecosystems to operate effectively with nutrient build-up and a general drop in water quality. This has resulted in a nutrient build up in our rivers and wetlands. According to the NW&S Master Plan between 1999 and 2011 the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500% with some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery. South Africa has lost over 50% of its wetlands and of the remaining 3.2 hectares, that is, one third are already in a poor condition.

page2image25992704

communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”(1.4.8).

The above-mentioned actions, we respectfully suggest, must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy. Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the National Eutrophication Strategy impotent.

3. Eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes

As a deliverable in terms of s 2.2 of the Inception Report, a Report on eutrophication challenges in South Africa and their causes is envisioned.

Mining, in particular platinum mining, can result in increased nitrogen levels in groundwater through the use of nitrogen-based explosives. These various nitrate sources can contribute to mining-related impacts on the water resources.

Most commercial explosives contain between 70% and 90% ammonium nitrate – which is highly soluble in water. Spillages, dissolution in wet holes and incomplete detonation during blasting activities will result in soil and water contamination with nitrates, nitrites and ammonia. Nitrogen-rich water is typically pumped from the underground workings and then circulates through process water dams, the tailings dam return water and the concentrator plant. If not contained in the mine water circuit, surface spills or seepage through unlined facilities may pose a risk to groundwater. (Reference: https://www.srk.co.za/en/za-helping-mines-find- real-source-nitrates-water.)

Since algae and other plants use nitrates as a source of food, it may result if unchecked, in eutrophication.

In view of the aforesaid, the FSE recommends that the Report also includes the impacts of mining in the eutrophication challenges.

4. National Eutrophication Monitoring Programme

Finally, kindly advise regarding the status of the National Eutrophication Monitoring Programme which assesses trophic status, risks and trends of single impoundments, river reaches or canals.

SUBMITTED BY:
Mariette Liefferink.
CEO: FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT 2 June 2020.

Comments attached for download.

Page 2 of 20

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