This month’s front cover article looks at Weir Minerals, which has become a household name among the bigger players in the mining sector. The company has, in recent years, developed a keen following among smaller, independent operators in the quarrying industry with its focused range of Trio® communition products and expert aftermarket support. Weir Minerals’ strategy to support this segment includes maintaining large stockholdings of spare parts at its Johannesburg warehouse and regional branches, so that these are quickly available when required, to minimise unnecessary downtime of the plant.
Time for legal recourse against illegal miners
MQ has often reported on illegal sand mining operations around the country and has lately focused on areas in KwaZulu-Natal. It seems as if the Department of Mineral Resources is battling at the moment in terms of resources and people on the ground. If this is the case, it is time that all affected stakeholders get together for a very serious discussion on the way forward; with or without the assistance of the DMR authorities.
To date there are over 200 illegal sand mining operations in KZN and the Eastern Cape alone, the majority of which are utilising open pit methods to extract sand directly from main river channels and adjacent sandbanks, estuaries and coastal dunes.
According to Romy Chevallier, a senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), natural sand from estuary and coastal land is one of SA’s most valuable resources. However, there has been a drastic increase in controlled and unauthorised sand mining activities throughout the country.
She says the frameworks governing small-scale sand mining in the country lack the necessary financial and human resource capacities to support better environmental compliance, and the enforcement mechanisms to successfully deter illegal activities are weak.
For this reason, there has been a flurry of new entrants to the sector creating a system fraught with social, environmental, legislative and structural challenges; and existing policy and management responses do not have the urgency required to prevent the irreversible destruction of riverbeds and associated estuarine zones.
MQ is aware of government’s attempt to set up a joint compliance and enforcement project in illegal sand mining, but a much more co-ordinated enforcement strategy is desperately needed. As Chevallier says: “It is imperative that this sector is better regulated to conserve the limited resource; to permit its ordered and sustainable exploitation; and mitigate the associated environmental impacts.”
The DMR has national jurisdiction over the regulation of sand mining. The key national statute, the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 (MPRDA), places all mineral resources in SA, including natural sand under the custodianship of the State. Any person wishing to extract sand must apply to the State for the right to do so and the Act sets out a regulatory regime governing the exploitation of the resource, applied through the administration of various rights and permits.
“Better enforcement is needed to discourage illegal activities and eventually prohibit the extraction of all river and estuarine sand, while seeking other sources of sand from the construction industry,” Chevallier says.
There is a need for a more comprehensive national inventory of legal operations – and not the outdated information that is currently available on the official database.
SA’s mining legislation requires mining companies to include detailed monitoring plans in their EMPs. Although larger companies generally have well-developed plan and implement these, this is not always the case with smaller operators. All of which is exacerbated by the DMR’s restricted capacity to enforce EMPs and issue penalties for non-compliance; and further complicated by difficult procedures, complex requirements and a dearth of resources particularly in provinces and municipalities.
Chevallier says some clarity is still needed regarding which department is ultimately responsible for regulating the environmental aspects of mining. Between 2008 and 2012 substantial amendments were made to mining legislation in SA. The 2008 amendments to the 2002 MPRDA sought to align its environmental requirements with those of the National Environmental Management Act of 1998 (NEMA), in order to create one environmental management system for mining. The 2008 agreement sought to repeal all the mine environmental management provisions in the MPRDA and transfer them to the NEMA.
In 2012, the MPRDA was further altered in pursuit of a single environmental approval process for mining, with the State hoping to streamline regulatory processes and licensing systems for mines’ environmental management with the DMR, DEA and DWA. All of which is very confusing with environmental NGOs questioning the objectivity of a mining authority issuing environmental authorisations. They are concerned that the DMR is both the referee and the player in this process.
Illegal mines should be closed immediately with estuary and riparian sand halted. It is time that legal action is taken to stem the increase in illegal aggregate and sand mining activities which are being carried out in the coastal dunes and river beds and elsewhere in the country; something that MQ hopes is on the cards.
More in this issue
Moregrove – a quarry with its eye on the ball: The Moregrove story started some 75 years back with the purchase of Moregrove Farm by Fraser’s Quarries, followed by augmentation and acquisitions which became a recurring theme in the early life of this remarkable operation.
Aspasa – an association with broad appeal: Companies that are not represented in their own industries are seeking support from the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association (Aspasa), which is amending its Constitution to include membership applications from key salt, dimension stone, rubble, ash suppliers and RCA handlers.
Sand mining free-for-all: Illegal sand mining along the banks of the Msunduzi and Umgeni Rivers between Pietermaritzburg and Durban is posing an increasingly serious environmental threat. Unregulated and unchecked illegal sand mining is considered a serious problem in this province.
Scania showcases construction solutions: The recently-held Scania Construction Day in the Western Cape which was well attended by customers and targeted customers, gave the company the opportunity to showcase and create awareness of its unique solutions for the construction sector.
MQ’s New equipment and products focus looks at Loesche, BME and Witgen, while Industry news focuses on Osborn’s new MD, the legal concerns for the PDS rill-out, AfriSam – which is boosting customer efficiency, and Bell’s new head of sales.