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ENVIRONMENT: WCEPA Response - Threat Of Elandsfontein Mine Pit Collapse


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THE WEST Coast Environmental Protection Association (WCEPA) is aware that Kropz Elandsfontein (Pty) Ltd issued a media release on 17 October 2017 (below, for reference) following the announcement that WCEPA has filed for an urgent interdict application to stop Kropz from unlawfully dewatering the Elandsfontein acquifer for a dormant mine. The WCEPA – represented by Cullinans and Associates – has opposed this mine from the outset due to the threat it poses to the eco-systems and livelihoods dependent on the Elandsfontein aquifer and Langebaan Lagoon. The following WCEPA response to Kropz’s 17 October statement can be attributed to Nicola Viljoen, WCEPA Treasurer, if quoted.

Nicola Viljoen, WCEPA Treasurer, responds to Kropz’s media release of 17 October 2017: “Having commenced mining and having excavated a large pit before it had obtained all the authorizations that it require to mine phosphate, Kropz is now arguing that it must not be prevented from pumping water out of the pit because otherwise the sides of its pit may collapse as the water level rises. That may cost Kropz money to rectify but there is no reason to believe that it will cause any significant environmental harm over and above the harm already caused by Kropz. On the other hand, as WCEPA’s experts point out in the appeal to the Water Tribunal, Kropz has not established what the impacts of its on-going abstraction and reinjection of aquifer water will have, and there are good reasons for believing that the long term impacts could be severe.

“Kropz’s current actions are unlawful, and if the pit floods and the walls begin to erode Kropz has only itself to blame. Mining companies must obtain a number of licences before they begin mining (particularly in environmentally sensitive and water-scarce areas). The law prescribes an integrated authorisation process that can be followed to ensure that all the authorisations are consistent and are obtained before mining commences. Kropz chose not to follow an integrated process, abandoned its application for an environmental authorization and recklessly started digging the pit before it had a water-use licence. Now it is conducting water-use activities unlawfully while its water use licence is suspended by operation of law. It is therefore Kropz’s recklessness and ongoing unlawful actions that created the situation that it now attempts to rely on to justify continuing the unlawful dewatering of the aquifer.

“It is surprising that Kropz considers evaporation of some water as serious harm when it is prepared to divert all the water it extracts from the aquifer to the municipality. The WCEPA made it quite clear that if a water use licence were granted it would lodge an appeal which automatically suspends the water use licence. Instead of waiting until the appeal and other foreseeable legal challenges had been resolved before commencing construction, Kropz chose a more reckless approach.”

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