Changes in legislation have seen the regulations surrounding the Environmental Act, the Water Act and the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act combined into a single system
The Centre for Environmental Rights is demanding that Elandsfontein Exploration and Mining conducts public participation for its water use licence.

The Centre for Environmental Rights has urged the Department of Water and Sanitation to order the mining company to undertake this process.

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) said that despite not yet having a water use licence, and with its environmental management programme still under appeal, Elandsfontein Exploration and Mining has already largely completed construction of an opencast phosphate mine on the edge of the West Coast National Park.

To date, Elandsfontein Exploration and Mining has not consulted with any of the interested and affected parties on its proposed water use, or the risks this water use may pose to the Elandsfontein aquifer which recharges the Langebaan Lagoon, said the Centre for Environmental Rights.

According to the Centre for Environmental Rights, two public interest organisations, the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa and the West Coast Environmental Protection Association, have already asked the Department of Water and Sanitation to instruct Elandsfontein Exploration and Mining to conduct public participation, but the department has failed to do so.

“In this instance, Elandsfontein Exploration and Mining is proposing an open cast phosphate mine which may cause significant detrimental impacts on the Elandsfontein aquifer with implications for the Langebaan Lagoon.

“There are many West Coast residents who rely on the Langebaan Lagoon for their livelihoods. The Langebaan Lagoon is also a declared a Ramsar site, and any damage to the ecological functioning of the lagoon will have far-reaching environmental and social implications,” the Centre for Environmental Rights said.

The Centre for Environmental Rights also referred to an objection lodged by SANParks in December 2016, which was inexplicably withdrawn in early February 2017. In its objection, SANParks wrote that “here are major concerns about the possible creation of artificial wetlands in the park and the water not being returned to the aquifer as planned, thus potentially endangering the Langebaan Lagoon.” SANParks also warned that “neither SANParks nor South Africa wants to run the risk of the country having one of its important Ramsar sites removed from the Montreux Record,” according to the Centre.

Centre for Environmental Rights ED Melissa Fourie said: “The High Court has made it clear that the Department of Water and Sanitation must ensure that the requirements of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act are met.

“To consider the granting of a water use licence to Eland Exploration and Mining without any public participation, when you’re dealing with possible violations of international treaties, and objections lodged by two public interest organisations, will surely just result in the water use licence being set aside in due course.

We call upon the department to follow the law, to act fairly and in the interest of the protection of water resources, and to ensure that all interested and affected parties have adequate opportunity to understand what is being proposed, and to make their representations to the department.”