Environmental regulations for mines ‘inferior’

The unhindered expansion of mining in Mpumalanga and Limpopo could compromise food security in South Africa.

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This is according to Dan Kriek, chairperson of Agri SA’s natural resource committee. Reacting to the Maize Trust’s recently launched investigation into the impact of pollution caused by mining in Mpumalanga, he said the industry is controlled by an “inferior set of environmental regulations.”

The mining industry is regulated by the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), while all other sectors in the country are regulated by the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). The agriculture sector would much rather see the mining industry regulated by NEMA, said Kriek. Enforced by the Department of Environmental Affairs, this act is among the best of its kind in the world, he added.

Long-term food production ought to be weighed against energy production from coal, he explained – especially when you consider that whole ecosystems are being wiped out by pollution caused by mining and related industries. Hennie Laas, CEO of Mpumalanga Agriculture, added that high potential grain production soils are “given away” by the Department of Mineral Resources.

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Mining licences are issued at will and none of the agriculture sections are taken into consideration. “We’re not only concerned about grain production. Mining also impacts on meat, poultry and mutton production,” added Laas. A way must be found for mining and agriculture to exist in harmony, and mining should be planned with long-term rehabilitation and the agriculture sector in mind, as South Africa cannot afford to lose any more valuable high potential agricultural soils, said maize and soya bean producer Ivan Enslin from Ogies, Mpumalanga.