CoAL receives order to cease illegal activity

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 11 August 2010

A criminal investigation is under way by the Department of Environmental Affairs to determine whether Coal of Africa (CoAL)is involved in any illegal activities in Limpopo in terms of violating environmental laws or not.

Commencement of mining at Vele

In the meantime CoAl received an order from the same department on Tuesday to cease all illegal environmental activities at its Vele site in northern Limpopo or face criminal charges.

The order follows two previous pre-compliance notices against the company.

At the beginning of this year, CoAL was granted a mining licence for the Vele colliery in Limpopo, just 6km from the Mapungubwe National Park, a world heritage site.

The licence was then opposed by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica shortly thereafter. Environmentalists were also strongly against the mine and lobbied in the hopes of getting the licence reversed.

Mapungubwe is seen as both culturally significant and environmentally sensitive. Environmentalists are concerned that CoAL’s mine will lead to further mining licence applications in the area.

Reports say a compliance notice was issued to CoAL last Thursday by the Environmental Management Inspectorate, known as the Green Scorpions.

The notice said CoAl must immediately stop all activities that are in infringement of the National Environmental Management Act, including the construction of access roads, a storage tank for hazardous substances, water pipelines and a sludge dam.

The mine is not permitted to increase the development footprint, and must halt activities within 32m of the Limpopo River and drainage channels.

The company was also ordered to appoint an independent consultant to report on the applicability of environmental legislation to proposed site activities.

“Failure to comply with the instructions in the notice is a criminal offence and would result in further charges to the criminal investigation that is already under way,” the department said.

CoAL denies that any of its activities were unauthorised in terms of the new order mining right it had been granted.

Source: News Time

Water crisis could cripple economic growth

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 May 2010

South Africa faces a water crisis that could cripple economic growth and cause a plague of health problems – but critics say the government has yet to act with urgency.

Toxic algae bloom

The most immediate concern is the acid mine drainage (AMD) polluting a vast swathe from the Witwaters-rand to Mpumalanga. Other threats include pesticide run-off, broken infrastructure and failed sewage plants.

As the population grows and economic recovery puts more pressure on limited inland water resources, experts predict a shift of industrial activity to coastal areas where desalination plants will have to meet a growing share of demand.

Environmentalists warn that if the government and industry fail to act, within two years mine water as corrosive as battery acid will gush from Johannesburg’s Wemmer Pan and seep into the city’s streets and gardens.

“It is acutely toxic,” said Mariette Liefferink, who leads a group of non-governmental organisations lobbying for action. “It affects the soil and neural development of the foetus, which leads to mental retardation; it will cause cancer, cognitive problems, skin lesions,” she said. “These are all the foreseeable risks if we do not manage our AMD.”

Acid mine drainage, which occurs when mines close and stop pumping water out of shafts, has contaminated streams and dams on the West and East Rand that feed into the Limpopo and Vaal rivers. Treatment by utilities such as Rand Water renders the water safe, but those who drink straight from rivers are at risk. Continue reading