Amanda Watson news editor The Citizen obituary

By Amanda Watson

News Editor


Mine rehabilitation cloaked in nontransparency, misleading reports – CER

The Centre for Environmental Rights says in its latest report neither the law nor accounting standards ensure accountability on mining firms' side.


A new report on the mining industry by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) claims neither the law, nor the accounting standards governing company disclosures, ensure transparency and accountability regarding financial provision for environmental rehabilitation.

Mining is a brutal business using explosive force to extract minerals, claiming 45 lives already this year in the process, 76 in 2017 and 73 in 2015.

Once a mine has yielded all that is profitable, a special fund required by law and run by the mining company is supposed to be available to restore the site as far as possible to its original state.

“If a mining company fails to rehabilitate, the state is supposed to be able to access that money and carry out the rehabilitation itself.

“Rehabilitation is expensive and when this system fails, it is the taxpayer who ultimately must pick up the tab,” said CER attorney Christine Reddell.

“We had already done two reports in our full disclosure series and those first two reports looked at more of the narrative side.

“We found companies were being very misleading and, in some cases, not mentioning at all they had been inspected and found to be in noncompliance with the law.”

Reddell noted that building on the previous reports meant looking at companies’ financial statements and how they disclosed the amount of money set aside to rehabilitate the environment.

“We brought Intellidex in because its people have quite a lot of financial expertise and asked them to do the initial assessment of companies’ financial statements. We then engaged the companies on the findings and put together the report, together with our recommendations,” Reddell said.

“Everyone should be looking at these financial statements to assess whether enough money has been set aside for the rehabilitation of mining sites.”

The problem was, the attorney added, these statements were often incomprehensible.

“If you look at the satellite imagery on our site, you can really see the devastation being caused by mining operations and how the devastation happens over time. You’re looking at farmlands which are completely transformed in a couple of years,” she added.

JSE-listed Anglo American Platinum Limited, Atlatsa Resources Corporation, Eastern Platinum Limited, Exxaro Resources Limited, Impala Platinum Holdings Limited, Lonmin plc, MC Mining Limited, Northam Platinum Limited, Royal Bafokeng Platinum Limited, Wescoal Holdings Limited and Wesizwe Platinum Limited are all covered in the report at fulldisclosure.cer.org.

Even the top scorer, Atlatsa, had room for improvement.

amandaw@citizen.co.za

INFO: Health risks ongoing

Unrehabilitated mines are dangerous and cannot be used for any other productive purpose.

The mine dumps left behind after operations cease can contain metal particles that seep into the soil and contaminate it, dissolve in water causing acid mine drainage and are carried through the air in clouds of dust.

This exposes surrounding communities to ongoing health risks that can continue for decades after operations have ceased.

Centre for Environmental Rights

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