Mining Mirror May 2017 - Page 17

Excursion Mining license application procedure Atha submitted its application for Yzermyn in 2014, Pinky Phosa, the MEC of the Mpumalanga Department of Environment and Tourism (M:DEDET), declared the Mabola region a protected environment. Mabola covers a substantial area of hydrological importance, although, according to Tripathi, the portion of it affected by mining is not classified as a high water yield area. The irony of the Atha debacle is that mining has been taking place in this region for ages. Several historical mining sites in the area date back to the 1950s and 1960s. One such a site, in fact, is located within one kilometre from Atha’s Yzermyn. Before the minister declared Mabola a protected environment, as many as three coal mining companies were (and still are today) actively mining coal and anthracite in the same general region where Atha now intends operating. One of these, the Loskop Mine, which is a small anthracite mine, is located on the farm Loskop, which is declared in the Mabola Protected Environment. The owner of the farm has, according to Tripathi, permitted the mine to be in operation despite falling within a protected environment and at the same time, opposed Atha’s mine for the reason that it is in a protected environment. “This is very ironic,” says Tripathi. “We acknowledge that there are three other mining companies operating close to or in the protected environment,” says DMR spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi. “However, it should be noted that these mining rights are old order rights that were issued in terms of the Mineral Act of Mabola covers an area of immense hydrological importance. It is the source of three major South African rivers (the Tugela, the Vaal, and the Pongola) and is composed mostly of wetlands, wetland clusters, and pans. The company must lodge an application in terms of section 22 of the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act, 2002 (Act No. 28 of 2002), which must contain the following: a plan contemplated in regulation 2(2), showing the land and mining area to which the application relates; a mining works programme; and a social and labour plan. Upon being lodged, the regional manager must accept or reject the application. Within 14 days of acceptance, the regional manager must notify the applicant in writing to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and submit an EMP for approval in terms of section 39, as well as notify and consult interested and affected parties within 180 days from the date of notice. Subsequent to the acceptance of the application, the minister must grant a mining right if: • The mineral can be mined optimally in accordance with the mining work programme; • The applicant has access to financial resources and has the technical ability to conduct the proposed mining operation optimally; • The financing plan is compatible with the intended mining operation and the duration thereof; • The mining will not result in unacceptable pollution, ecological degradation, or damage to the environment; • The applicant has provided financially and otherwise for the prescribed social and labour plan; • The applicant has the ability to comply with the relevant provisions of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act No. 29 of 1996) and the applicant is not in contravention of any provi- sion of this Act; • The granting of such rights will further the objectives referred to in section 2(d) and (f), and are in accordance with the charter contemplated in section 100 and the prescribed social and labour plan. Source: Department of Environmental Affairs. 1991, well before the area was declared a protected environment,” says Shezi. This issue is a hot potato. The question is, if an area is declared protected, a heritage site, or a national park, what happens with the mining and prospecting rights dished out to exploration companies before it became protected? In the case of those rights in Mabola, the answer is ‘nothing’ — mining continued as before. Long road to compliance Yzermyn had a prospecting right on it before the area became protected. Before Atha purchased the asset in 2011, it belonged to a group of private shareholders who in turn bought it from Ingwe Collieries, a BHP Billiton subsidiary. The Anglo-Australian multinational acquired the prospecting MAY 2017 MINING MIRROR [15]