The FF Plus’s proposal in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature to immediately use accumulated funds amounting to approximately R17,5 billion, set aside for the rehabilitation of abandoned mines in the province, was adopted.
The funds cannot be used for rehabilitation while a mine is still operational. The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) may, however, use it once a mine has been abandoned.
The Department has not yet done this in Mpumalanga. Most of the mines in the province are not considered legally closed and, therefore, the funds cannot be used.
Before mining activities commence, companies make financial provision for rehabilitation in case a mine is abandoned and government must step in to close it.
Companies across Mpumalanga are currently holding about R17,5 billion in financial provisions. It covers almost 6 000 prospecting rights, mining permits and mining rights.
The provisions – cash guarantees, bank guarantees and mine closure trust funds – are to be held by the DMR.
The funds are only paid back to the company when applied for and a closure certificate is issued by the DMR, which relieves the company of any further liability.
The DMR’s office in Mpumalanga is responsible for 30% of the country’s financial provision. And yet thus far, it has only issued about 1% of the closure certificates that were awarded between 2011 and 2016.
Of the 445 closure certificates that were issued countrywide, only six were issued in Mpumalanga, and not one was for a coal mine.
Unrehabilitated mines pose the risk of polluting the water of millions of Mpumalanga residents. Mining waste that is exposed to the elements can significantly raise the acidity level of water and soil.
Known as acid mine drainage, it can render water unusable and land unproductive, and corrode municipal infrastructure used for water supply.
The FF Plus will keep the pressure on in this regard. Government must ensure that companies provide sufficient financial security to cover the full cost of coal mine rehabilitation.
Those funds must be used to clean up mining sites after mining activities were stopped. The companies that fail to do so must be held accountable.
Read the original article in Afrikaans by Werner Weber on FF Plus