Blow to NC min­ing as wa­ter rights re­voked

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - MUR­RAY SWART STAFF RE­PORTER

THE RE­VO­CA­TION of wa­ter rights for min­ing near Pniel could se­verely ham­per min­ing oper­a­tions in the area.

While the re­vo­ca­tion of the wa­ter rights does not mean that all min­ing must come to a com­plete stand­still in the area, the lack of ac­cess to wa­ter is likely to se­verely hin­der oper­a­tions. Spokesper­son for the na­tional De­part­ment of Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion (DWS), Sput­nik Ratau, con­firmed that the wa­ter rights had been re­voked af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted into the prac­tices of the min­ing oper­a­tions ear­lier this year.

“The DWS con­ducted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion at Astro Tail Mine/ Rush­tail 31 Pty Ltd on April 6, 2017,” Ratau said in a state­ment is­sued by the de­part­ment. “There were rea­son­able grounds to be­lieve that the mine com­menced with ac­tiv­i­ties de­fined as wa­ter uses in terms of Sec­tion 21 of the Na­tional Wa­ter Act (NWA).”

These ac­tiv­i­ties in­cluded tak­ing wa­ter from a wa­ter re­source, stor­ing wa­ter and dis­pos­ing of waste in a man­ner that could detri­men­tally im­pact on a wa­ter re­sources with­out an au­tho­ri­sa­tion. “These grounds were con­firmed dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Op­er­at­ing with­out wa­ter use au­tho­ri­sa­tion is non-com­pli­ance.”

Ratau said that in April, the DWS ex­pressed its in­ten­tion to is­sue a di­rec­tive for the min­ing com­pa­nies to cease us­ing wa­ter at the site un­til they pro­vided proof of au­tho­ri­sa­tion to use the wa­ter sup­plies.

“The wa­ter user re­sponded through writ­ten rep­re­sen­ta­tion on May 2. A meet­ing was held at the DWS’s North­ern Cape of­fices with the var­i­ous role-play­ers. Dur­ing this meet­ing Astro Tail Mine, Rush­tail 31 (Pty) Ltd, and the Pniel CPA (Com­mu­nity Prop­erty As­so­ci­a­tion) in­di­cated that they had ap­plied for a wa­ter use au­tho­ri­sa­tion with the de­part­ment on March 17, 2016.”

While the DWS ac­knowl­edged that they had re­ceived the ap­pli­ca­tion for au­tho­ri­sa­tion to use the wa­ter, Ratau em­pha­sised that this ap­pli­ca­tion did not serve as au­tho­ri­sa­tion to use wa­ter in the in­terim.

“Thus, the de­part­ment in­di­cated that they would pro­ceed with ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion to en­sure com­pli­ance,” he added.

A few days later, the DWS con­firmed that the Wa­ter User’s Li­cence (WUL) had in­deed been authorised, a rul­ing that was met by an ap­peal to the Wa­ter Tri­bunal by the Pniel CPA the fol­low­ing day. As a re­sult of this ap­peal, the WUL was sus­pended and a let­ter of no­ti­fi­ca­tion was is­sued to the Pniel CPA.

“Un­til the sus­pen­sion is lifted, no wa­ter use can con­tinue on Pniel,” Ratau em­pha­sised. “There­fore, on Mon­day, Septem­ber 4 the pro­vin­cial of­fice is­sued a di­rec­tive to Rush­tail 31 (Pty) Ltd and Pniel CPA to stop all wa­ter us­age within two days, pend­ing the up­lift­ment of the sus­pen­sion on the WUL or the out­come of the ap­peal.”

Ratau con­cluded by say­ing that while us­ing wa­ter on the site was il­le­gal, min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties were tech­ni­cally al­lowed to con­tinue. “It is im­por­tant to note that only the wa­ter us­age needs to stop. The DWS does not stop min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like ex­ca­va­tion, truck­ing and stock­pil­ing of ma­te­rial which fall un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the DMR (De­part­ment of Min­eral Re­sources).”

Mean­while, the DMR said in a state­ment that it was not aware of the re­vo­ca­tion of the WUL for the site, say­ing that this was part of the DWS’s man­date.

“The DMR does not reg­u­late wa­ter rights and we have not been in­formed by the DWS of any wa­ter rights that have been re­voked,” read the state­ment.

“The com­pany is op­er­at­ing in terms of an ap­proved min­ing right and should there be any non-com­pli­ance, this de­part­ment will fol­low the ad­min­is­tra­tive jus­tice process to en­sure that they take rec­ti­fy­ing steps.

“In terms of leg­is­la­tion ad­min­is­tered by this de­part­ment, we have is­sued a sec­tion 31L pre-com­pli­ance no­tice in terms of the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Act, to address cer­tain en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.”

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