Bitter battles have recently been fought over mining rights and the validity of permits issued by various government departments to mine sands in the Western Cape.
Environmental concerns have also been raised and the effects of mining on surrounding communities have come under considerable scrutiny. Landmark court battles have even been won in Cape Town where zoning of land does not permit mining to take place.
In other instances nationwide, there are many records of environmental impact assessments not being completed in line with provincial or national environmental protection requirements or mining rights had simply not been obtained at all. In these instances mines face closure until such time as they comply with requirements.
The Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (Aspasa), has once again come out strongly against illegal sand and aggregate mining in any form throughout South Africa. The consequences of using illegal sand and aggregate are seen as a severe infringement as the mineral belongs to the state
“Legislation and laws have been put in place for a very good reason and need to be abided by at all times – or quarries must face the consequences”, say Nico Pienaar, director of Aspasa. “As with the mining of any mineral, it is necessary to obtain rights from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), obtain necessary environmental clearances from local, provincial and national government, ensure land is zoned for mining purposes and in addition satisfy any other legislation or by-laws as required.
He carries on, saying, “A mining license is not a blank cheque to start mining. It is merely the first step in a process that needs to be followed before mining may begin. Under the constitution surrounding communities’ interests also need to be considered, as does water usage and environmental protection, road usage etc and a myriad of other issues need to be evaluated.”
In addition, dubious operators usually pay little attention to health and safety of workers on site and make little contribution to future stability of employment of workers due to the “here today gone tomorrow” nature of their operations.
“Aspasa was set up exactly for this reason, to assist in the regulation of the industry, improve quality of materials mined and look after the interests of all who work in the industry or are affected by its operation. We also promote transformation of our industry to represent all sectors of society fairly and equally without excluding any group or population,” adds Nico.
As a reputable industry body, Aspasa requires members to undergo accreditation and annual audits to ensure regulatory compliance for safety, health and environment, as well as compliance with all legislation and by-laws relating to operating a legal quarry or sand mine.
All Aspasa members are required to undergo a Health and Safety audit once a year and every 18 months for an environmental audit. Both these audits are world class systems which ensure that operations who are Aspasa members stay legally compliant.
The two audits also count towards the Mining Charter score sheet that is completed and sent in to the DMR yearly. In order to maintain their accreditation, members are not able to cut corners relating to minimum wages, environmental protection etc. As a result they do not usually get caught-up in price wars and other unsustainable, damaging practices that are commonly instigated by unscrupulous operators.