Mining director convicted of environmental damage

Matome Maponya has become the first mine boss in South Africa to be found guilty of a mining-related environmental offence.

According to the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Maponya, managing director of Blue Platinum Ventures 16 in Tzaneen, Limpopo, was given a five-year suspended sentence on condition the damage caused by mining operations outside Batlhabine village would be rehabilitated within three months.

The cost of rehabilitation is estimated at R6,8 million.

Mashile Phalane, a representative of the Batlhabine community, said that mining there had proceeded without an environmental management plan. “And they can’t rehabilitate, because we’ve lost the top soil and it can’t be recovered. Within the past five years we’ve seen bad soil erosion encroaching.”

With help from the CER, the community laid charges against the company and its directors.

Both Blue Platinum and Maponya pleaded guilty to contravention of section 24F of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema).

“It’s important for other directors in the mining industry to note that Maponya was not given the option of a fine, and his suspended sentence is linked directly to fixing the damage caused,” said Melissa Fourie, executive director at CER.

“The time has come for greater accountability for environmental damage in the mining sector: not only by mining companies themselves for the devastating effects of their environmental violations, but also by the office-bearers who make the decisions that cause such damage.”