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Statement to announce the Commission interventions to address concerns regarding the Grootvlei Mine and Acid Mine Drainage

Grootvlei Mine – Human Rights Commission seeks Minister’s intervention

The non-payment of worker salaries and the detrimental environmental impacts of the inactive and decanting mine into the surrounding catchments are of concern to the Commission.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011. Johannesburg. The SA Human Rights Commission is extremely concerned about the impact of mining activities on Human Rights in South Africa.

In an effort to broaden its attempts to address the challenges related to mining and human rights, the Commission recently convened a Section five Committee on Environmental Justice and Mining. This Committee is formed in terms of Section five of the Human Rights Act and will advise the Commission on issues related to mining and impacts thereof on human settlements and the natural environment.  Stakeholders from civil society, research organisations, local government and academic institutions attended the inaugural meeting, which was held on 22 March 2011.

Meanwhile, the Commission is continuing with its investigation of a complaint on allegations of human rights violations relating to mining activities at the Grootvlei mine east of Johannesburg and has recently written to the Minister of Mineral Resources Ms. Susan Shabangu to request her intervention in this matter.

Non-payment of salaries

The Commission’s investigation centres on the non-payment of worker salaries for extended periods of time, which has resulted in workers being unable to meet their financial obligations. Preliminary findings on the matter show that the non-payment of salaries has had resultant impacts on the quality of life of the workers and their families, particularly on their health and access to food, water and education.

In addition, the Commission is exceedingly concerned about the current and potential impacts of the inactive and decanting mine into the surrounding catchments and the Blosbokspruit, on water and other natural resources. The Commission is liaising with various organisations on the matter and understands that mining activities have undermined the quality of water supplies and crops in the area and has negatively affected human health and the health of wildlife and eco-systems in the surrounding environments.

Acid Mine Drainage

The Commission has also requested the Minister to furnish it with a plan of action over: the neutralisation and rehabilitation of the Grootvlei mine and surrounding areas; the wider problem of acid mine drainage in the Gauteng region, where untreated acid mine water is continuously decanting into various water systems in the region, impacting on the state of the environment and human health; as well as assistance to the Grootvlei mine workers who have not been compensated for their services to the mine and assistance to the surrounding community since early 2010.

The Commission is further concerned that acid mine water has the potential to threaten the realisation of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, chapter 2 of the Constitution, particularly the rights to food, water and an environment that is not harmful to one’s health or wellbeing. 

The Commission has also expressed its disappointment with the Liquidator for continuously granting extensions to potential buyers of the mine, which has resulted in the delay of transfer of ownership of the mine, which has resulted in the problems indicated above.

The Commission has to date, not received a response to its request for information from the Minister of Mineral Resources.

ENDS

Enquiries: Vincent Moaga on 073 562 9866

 

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