New legislation to make South African mine dumps and stockpiles more environmentally friendly

Mining waste is no longer regulated by the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and instead finds itself more appropriately under the National Environmental Management Waste Act.

Under the new legislation, a waste management licence is necessary in order to create a residue stockpile. Applicants for this licence must first satisfy environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements. This is a far more stringent approach to the previous legislation which did not require a waste licence but only an approved environmental management plan.

The management of stockpiles and residue deposits will probably be more expensive as stockpiles now have to be designed by a registered civil or mining engineer and must comply with all statutory landfill and disposal requirements. If the waste involved is as a result of prospecting or activities requiring mining permits, then a simple EIA is required. On the other hand, if the waste is as a result of activities requiring a mining right, exploration right or production right, then a full scoping EIA must be undertaken. These changes have meant that mining companies will now also have to undergo far more public participation and involvement.

These changes, although expensive, will have a far greater impact on restoring and preventing environmental damage. The penalties for contravening the new regulations also carry weight as anyone found guilty will face up to 15 years imprisonment or an appropriate fine.

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