JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu would soon announce ‘no-go’ areas for mining, based on ecological sensitivity, Environmental and Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Monday.
Speaking at a business briefing in Johannesburg, she said that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Department of Mineral Resources would also publish jointly developed mining and biodiversity guidelines.
The DEA was working with other government departments to ensure that mining methods were less destructive and that appropriate mitigation and rehabilitation measures were in place and financially provided for.
Molewa indicated that the mining industry currently accounted for about 7.7% of South Africa’s gross domestic product and that it would continue to be a significant contributor.
“It is therefore imperative that this important sector be treated as key in our greening of the economy.
“Not only do we need to addres the significant legacy of environment degradation caused by past policies and practices, but also ensure that current and future mining activities take place in such a way that we do not leave the same undesirable legacy for the next generation,” she urged.
Regarding land-use patterns, South Africa had made progress in mainstreaming environmental sustainability in the development processes. Molewa said this was visible in the integrated development plans and spatial development frameworks at local government level.
“It is time to implement a resource-efficient, low-carbon and proemployment growth path. Government, the private sector and civil society need to be jointly and actively involved as partners in this process. The conservation and wise use of our natural capital, which is valued, is key to ensuring a sustainable future,” the Minister stressed.
Economic growth, business continuity, food and energy security and drinking water supplies were also currently under increasing pressure.
“With finite limits to freshwater availability, we must always be innovative in our water resource management so that we deliver the much-needed water to sustain growth for humanity and the environment,” Molewa stated.
She warned that if South Africa wished to broaden its agricultural base, equity in water use was necessary.
“For agriculture to effectively drive green growth resilience, the focus should be on support of agrarian societies in implementing and using alternative inputs that are less vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices, alternative mechanisation options, water harvesting and irrigation technologies, and strengthening financial flows and investment in the sector,” Molewa said.
Irrigated agriculture currently made up 60% of the South Africa’s water user and was also the sector where large savings could be achieved with a focus on the efficiency of distribution systems, such as pipelines and canals, the Minister suggested.
As part of President Jacob Zuma’s Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee's Strategic Integrated Projects, the construction of De Hoop Dam was due for completion by April 2013.
“It remains our focus to deliver water for domestic and economic use in the Greater Sekhukhune, Waterberg and Capricorn district municipalities. A total of 2.3-million people in the domestic sector will benefit from this project,” Molewa enthused.
She added that the construction of the Mokolo project, which formed part of the developments in the Waterberg area, had started.
The project is aimed at supporting State-owned power utility Eskom and mining activities around the Medupi and Matimba power stations and would be commissioned by the end of 2013.
Molewa said one of the highlights for the financial year would be the completion of the Dwarsloop-Acornhoek steel pipeline, in Mpumalanga, by December. The pipeline would supply water to all nine rural communities in the Bushbuckridge local municipality.
Further, the Department of Water Affairs had set aside about R370-million to tackle dam safety rehabilitation countrywide.