To Mine, or to Yours

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BECOMING MORE IN LIFE

When you buy a house, it is the single biggest investment of your life. It is treated as such by the financial partner, the Real Estate Agent, City Council, the Transfer Office, and the most important of it all, you and your family nesting it out. You consider so much of the local economics and geography of the area your new house is grounded, you yourself have qualifications as a realtor.

Soon you realise that all of this is not as important as the one single factor….you become a member of a new community. Soon you realise that you and your home are not so unique anymore because everything you do, or your neighbour does, have an effect on everything that influences that specific area. If you braai, your neighbours notice. If you make your Easter pickle fish they notice that too. If you have your house warming party, they probably would walk around in their pyjamas and warn you about the noise levels. Your kid get chased down the street by another neighbour’s dog and probably gets bitten, the local café becomes a problem for your teenagers son because that is where his peers would gather around to talk about the neighbourhood girls and probably have a smoke.

….AND MORE

In a month you realise that the old couple behind cannot drive their own car to the shopping mall anymore because of poor eyesight, now you start driving them around. The school is pushing up the school fees at an alarming rate, and the municipality doesn’t remove the bins on time, or even cut the lawn in the park. Now you are part of a community, and the sources of your grey hair multiply by the day.

But luckily you don’t have to worry about all of this because all of us are guided by the laws and by-laws of the government in charge. Until you get this upsetting notice that some Australian Company wants to mine adjacent to you house looking for gold. A nerve shock right through the right side of your head, aren’t they enough trouble on the sports fields, now they want to come turn up my backyard looking for gold to benefit who? Anyone mining for gold in our area will not benefit anyone but himself, history has shown that throughout.

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The tranquil Georginia South is in danger. Is this beautiful Hamberg Dam being in the pipeline to be used for mining water?

…….SCREEEEETCH!!!!!

How did this meal land on my dinner table? Is this a new tendency? Mining activities had been happening all along the Main Reef Area for as long as I can remember. The salvaging of gold from the old mine dumps of this area happened for decades on end, but most of us were audience to these mining activities. Yes like humans are, we see, and if it is at a distance and seemingly not affecting us, we don’t care really. Not even on windy days when these dust clouds from the mining dumps fill the air, our nostrils and lungs. Numerous studies had been done over the years, too many to list.

WATER AND LAND THREATS

But it is not only that which fills the air and the top soil, but also that which is washed and sifted from the top soil to the underground water by the rains. There was a bit of media coverage of Johannesburg’s acid mine water drainage crisis. The solo water activist Mariette Liefferink from the Federation for a Sustainable Environment has been fighting this issue for years now, and Carte Blanche was kind enough to have her on the show a few times. I can remember that they had Eastrand farmers on one program that had said their produce are picking up cyanide from underground mine water, the so-called acid water. It is a known fact that cyanide is used in the process of gold extraction. Liefferink said mine water had the same acidity as vinegar or lemon juice, and was a legacy of 120 years of gold mining in the region. Everyone knows that vinegar kills vegetation.  Acid water is formed underground when old shafts and tunnels fill up. The water oxidises with the sulphide mineral iron pyrite, better known as fool’s gold. The water then fills the mine and starts decanting into the environment, in a process known as acid mine drainage. She also said “Waste from gold mines constitutes the largest single source of waste and pollution in South Africa… Acid mine drainage may continue for many years after mines are closed and tailings dams decommissioned,”

And to take it back to the air again, Johannesburg was once in our Geography school text books depicted as a city of major air pollution. We were told by the teacher that smoke from the industries, many cars, domestic fires all attribute to the dark cloud across the city. What they didn’t say is that dust from the mine dumps also filled the air.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Johannesburg is the most polluted city in South Africa. They have looked at 1 600 cities around the globe and came to a conclusion that only 12% monitor their air quality. They also concluded that air pollution killed at least 3.7 million people prematurely in 2012due to illnesses such as strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Air quality is measured in Particulate Matter (PM). According to the WHO guidelines, the PM per cubic metre is 10micrograms (Mu). At the time when this report was written the monitoring system at www.saaqis.org.za was offline.

According to the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, the Witwatersrand is the world’s largest gold and uranium mining basin with the extraction, from more than 120 mines, of 43 500 tonnes of gold in one century and 73000 tonnes of uranium between 1953 and 1995. The basin covers 1600 km2, and has left 400 km2 of mine tailings dams and six billion tonnes of pyrite tailings containing 450 000 tonnes of uranium.

Mind you, it springs to mind that I read a report a few years ago that toxic waste can drift down wind for thousands of kilometres. In this report activists claimed that traces of South Africa’s West Rand mine dust have been found as far afield as Tasmania, and that is in Australia.

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The proposed mining site, between residential areas above in yellow. The proposed mining right area is located on various portions of the farms Glen Lea 228 IQ, Perdekraal 226 IQ, Rand Glen 229 IQ, Dobsonville 386 IQ, Doornkop 239 IQ, Fleurhof Township, Roodepoort 236 IQ, Roodepoort 237 IQ, Uitval 677 IQ, Vlakfontein 233 IQ, Vlakfontein 238 IQ, Witpoortjie 245 IQ, Vogelstruisfontein 231 IQ, Vogelstruisfontein 233 IQ, Soweto 387 IQ, Klipspruit 298 IQ, Klipriviersoog 299 IQ, Durban Roodepoort Deep 641 IQ, Bram Fischerville 663 IQ, Bram Fischerville 649 IQ and Tshekisho 710 IQ in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng Province.

Mining activities consist of opencast mining and refurbishing of existing infrastructure to access the existing underground workings

THE AESTHETICS AND PRACTICAL CHALLENGES OF A GOLDMINE, THIS CLOSE TO MY HOUSE

We already are a highway for traffic from Soweto to the Northern and Western suburbs. Imagine what lies ahead when mining vehicles and machinery take over our roads, how we get to work if no one from this Australian Mining Company addressed this issue. They don’t even live here, or use these roads daily. How will their studies inform them that we have a life and you want to disturb it? No of cause, it is no issue. They have two objectives, getting a mining licence and taking the gold and uranium. Their Environmental Impact Assessment is done because it needs to be done, not because they really care for the residents. And they will probably cover u their damage to the environment simply because legislation needs them to provide a plan.

Many studies will show that rehabilitation of the ecosystem is practically impossible. After mining activities no ecosystem can be restored to 100% or even close to it. If Nature gets disturbed, it stays disturbed because there is no proven medication. Imagine how difficult it is to do the following, removing any hazardous materials, reshaping the land, restoring topsoil, and planting native grasses, trees, or ground cover. And then like when you buy a car, after service and monitoring. If the program is decommissioned, it is decommissioned and becomes the problem and hazard of the people who live there.

A Mine Closure program is just as important as opening a mine. In 2016 we noted that Mintails was deemed a failure because of lack of funds for successful closure program. The Lancaster Dam in Krugersdorp collects polluted water from this Mintails Project. So in a country like South Africa with more than 6 000 identified neglected and abandoned mines, how can we continue just giving new mining rights and licenses to mining companies? On the one hand we say “never again…..” but we keep on breaking down our promises for the sniff of making money.

WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM A GOLD MINE?

The mining company and its beneficiaries of cause.

But Government will be a major beneficiary. But how is it possible that government benefit from a private project? They will get a share from revenue from the mine as well as royalty fees. At this moment the Mining Charter was pulled for review, so not much info is available at this stage. We also know of the pressure from certain groups on the nationalisation of certain mines.

There is also a partnership elsewhere in the world between government and mining companies to ensure that issues such as land access, economic benefit, relocation of communities, beneficiation, corruption and the threat of indigenisation, are correctly managed, and economic opportunities for the communities are maximised. On the other hand mining companies are running scared of the influence of unionisation of the sector might have a negative outcomes on productivity and timelines. This has an impact on the local community and their benefits from mining such as equity stakes, infrastructure development, job creation and improving the communities’ ability to supply services and goods to the project…in a manner of all benefits all.

Having this mine will also scratch places where nothing is itching syndrome.

  • New workers will want to have access to land and housing,
  • Mining have a natural partner, that is agriculture and these two don’t see eye to eye in South Africa as they don’t partner in such projects.
  • Mining have a direct link to human rights, and the mutual respect that must be embedded in such a relationship.
  • There will be an expectation of social risk management as the local community will be a direct stakeholder. Mining companies can’t just mine and go. Home owners are stake holders just as the local government is.
  • How will conflict and communication be dealt with, will an organogramic communication system be put in pace for all shareholders, including the local communities?

Yes, there is a lot at stake and this might be a first project of its sort. Joburg was built around the mining industry, and this project is sort of different. It wants to be embedded in a settled community. It is going to be a long battle and we hope for the best for us, the community.

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Roodepoort Record Clip – Friday 13 April 2018