What will water and mining leaders be dealing with in 2011?

The yearly performances of the mineral resources and water departments have mostly diminished farmers’ livelihoods for many years.

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By the end of 2010, despite some positives largely brought about by pressure from farmer lobbies and activists, like the closing of Vele Colliery near Mapungubwe by the Green Scorpions, and minerals minister Susan Shabangu’s six-month moratorium on prospecting applications, the minerals department was still zealously awarding mining rights, while water affairs was in a state of financial chaos, and lost its minister, Bulelwa Sonjica (replaced by Edna Molewa) as a result. Farmer’s Weekly asked several commentators to outline the road ahead for these departments.
Gareth Morgan, DA water and environmental affairs shadow minister
The new water affairs minister must urgently improve governance, he said. “This would include the appointment of a new director general with extensive experience in management and the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act. “The Water Trading Entity’s billing system isn’t reliable. Unless fixed, it could face litigation from water users who don’t trust the bills they’re receiving. “It’s also clear that South Africa’s wastewater treatment works are getting worse. Local government elections are likely to highlight the failing plants more acutely as voters and opposition parties hold municipalities to account. Hopefully, the new minister will use court action against municipalities that neglect to rehabilitate plants.”

Dr Paul Oberholster, limnologist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
“South Africa generates almost R30 billion in exports to the EU and, for two consecutive years, has been warned that, unless the eutrophication and contamination of water resources used for irrigation is reversed, permission to export to the EU could be withdrawn. This situation remains unchanged. Water too contaminated for irrigation will result in job losses and food import increases. Industries dependent on large water quantities may have to incur the capital expense of installing their own water purification facilities. Tourism will be affected by cholera outbreaks.”
Hendrik Schmidt, DA minerals and energy shadow minister
“Since 2004, when the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act effectively gave ownership of the nation’s mineral wealth to the state, the minerals department has issued thousands of prospecting and hundreds of mining licences across the country. “But a Constitutional Court decision in which the prospecting rights issued to a mining company was set aside due to the fact that there was no proper consultation with the Bengwenyama community (the owners of the land for which a prospecting right was issued), indicates that the courts are still prepared to ensure consultation takes place between miners and the relevant landowners, communities and occupiers of land.

This is good news, as many rights wouldn’t have been granted had the mining companies given affected and interested parties, such as farmers, the opportunity to lodge well-founded objections. “On the other hand, in November this year, the mineral resources minister indicated in parliament that the long-anticipated state-owned mining company will become a reality in 2011. The mining portfolio committee will visit Bolivia and Chile from 15 to 29 January 2011 to study the role played by the state-owned entity in the mining sector in those countries. “Unfortunately, these countries have introduced some form of nationalisation, which doesn’t seem to bode well.”

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Mariette Liefferink, Federation for a Sustainable Environment CEO
“Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) must be a priority in 2011. You only have to refer to water affairs’ own public domain reports relating to the Vaal to see why. It was found that the additional salinity as a result of AMD creates water-security risks, and that to comply with the regulatory limit of 600mg/â„“ sulphates, good quality water has to be released from the Vaal Dam to ensure that the water below the Vaal Barrage is fit for use. “It can also be inferred from the report that water supply shortages will be experienced by 2014/2015. “Currently, there are still no treatment plans in place to address the flooding and decant in the western, eastern, far western, central and KOSH (Klerksdorp, Orkney, Stilfontein and Hartbeestfontein) basins.”