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Politics trumps the law: Implementation of new rules for mines delayed until December 2014

8 September 2014 at 4:58 pm

Over the past few months, the Centre for Environmental Rights and others have been commenting on the disorderly manner in which the roll-out of the “One Environmental System” for mines is taking place. Many of us have pointed out that provisions in the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, 2014 that came into effect last week have significant implications for, inter alia, the operation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 and the regulation of the environmental impacts of mining operations.

On 4 September 2014, the Department of Environmental Affairs issued the statement below. We note that, as at date of writing, there is no sign of this statement on the website of the Department of Mineral Resources. The statement indicates that “government took a decision” that the One Environmental System will only be implemented from 8 December 2014. Effectively, it appears that a decision was made to overlook legal provisions brought into effect by the legislature and the President to take more time to prepare for implementation – despite all affected departments knowing about the imminent commencement for many months. Not only does this show disrespect for the rule of law and does nothing for legal certainty, but also creates an open-cast loophole for unscrupulous mining companies. It also raises important and worrying questions, not for the first time, about the DMR’s commitment to implementation of the One Environmental System.




The National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act (Act No. 25 of 2014) (NEMLA 3) published on 2 June 2014 came into effect yesterday 3 September 2014. NEMLA 3 forms part of a suite of Acts which will give rise to the “One Environmental System,” for the country relating to mining and related activities. However NEMLA 3 and its associated regulations for the One Environmental System will be implemented from 8 December 2014.

The effective implementation of the One Environmental System is dependent upon the commencement of certain sections of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Act, 2014 (MPRDAA, 2014). It is also dependent on related regulations being in place, including but not restricted to: the National Appeal Regulations, National Exemption Regulations, New EIA Regulations and listing notices, Financial Provisioning and Mine Closure regulations under the National Environmental Management Act, as well as regulations under the National Water Act, Residue Stockpile and Residue Deposits regulations under the Waste Act and amendment of the MPRDA Regulations to remove regulations relating to the environment.

Government took a decision that the “One Environmental System” will only be implemented from 8 December 2014, when the whole suite of legislation and subordinate legislation necessary for the implementation of the One Environmental System will be in effect.

Under the One Environmental System, the Minister of Mineral Resources will issue environmental authorisations and waste management licences in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 and the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008, respectively, for mining and related activities. The Minister of Environmental Affairs will be the appeal authority for these authorisations.

The Ministers of Environmental Affairs, Mineral Resources and Water and Sanitation have agreed on fixed time-frames for the consideration and issuing of the permits, licences and authorisations in their respective legislation. It was also agreed to synchronise the process for the issuing of permits, licences and authorisations within a 300 day period. If a decision is appealed, an additional maximum period of 90 days will be required to finalise the process.

The Minister of Mineral Resources will be authorised to appoint Mineral Resource Inspectors who will have the same powers as Environmental Management Inspectors to enforce the provisions of NEMA and the regulations thereunder as far as it relates to mining and related activities.

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