DRDGold rebuts NGO pollution accusation
Publish date: 12 September 2017
Issue Number: 524
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
JSE-listed DRDGold, which focuses on mining tailings dams around Johannesburg, has taken exception to a report by the Benchmarks Foundation that dust emissions from its operations were responsible for respiratory diseases among Soweto residents. According to a Cape Times report, speaking during the presentation of the company’s financial results for the year-end to June in Johannesburg last week, DRDGold CE Niel Pretorius said he was disappointed and perplexed by the report released last week by the church-owned non-profit organisation that monitors corporate responsibility. ‘There is only one institution that is pumping money in rehabilitation tailings dams,’ Pretorius said. ‘DRDGold has managed to significantly reduce dust emissions to the point where unless the wind was pumping at 50 knots from the south-east, there is hardly any dust coming through,’ he said. DRDGold was one of the mines included in the ‘Waiting to inhale: A Household Survey of Four Soweto Communities Impacted by Mining’ report on the communities of Riverlea, Diepkloof, Doornkop and Meadowlands.
The Riverlea Community Forum (RCF) had tried desperately to communicate with DRDGold, but had been unable to do so on a regular basis, lead researcher David van Wyk, the author of the report, said. A Mining Weekly report notes that the NGO added that its researchers had experienced difficulties in engaging with the mining companies and to get members of mine management to respond to correspondence directed through, for example, the RCF, with the exercise requiring several follow-up telephone calls and e-mails. The foundation criticised DRDGold’s alleged defence of unsignposted and unfenced mine dumps as being ‘wholly inadequate’. The NGO disputed that dust from dumps posed no health risk, while DRDGold has made the point that its staff working on the dumps are not showing any signs of respiratory ailments.
DRDGold revealed last week that it is currently receiving eight megalitres of treated AMD water a day from the government water organisation Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA). This is roughly the same quantity of treated sewage water that it receives daily from the sewage treatment plant operated by the East Rand Water Care Company. According to a Mining Weekly report, DRDGold requires large quantities of water to mine, pump and process tailings, which is why it limits its use of drinkable water by making use of treated sullied water. Pretorius is quoted in the report as saying: ‘We’re happy that we can use treated AMD, but we’ve got to be clever about how much of it we put into our system.’ He was referring to the company’s centralised water distribution system, which has cut the use of potable water by 26% and total water use by 8%. ‘It’s pushed into all the corners of the operation, making water far more manageable, predictable and cost effective.’ Questioned on the possibility of an AMD levy being applied to mines, as has been mooted, Pretorius said that DRDGold has a R250m credit that is applicable in the event of a financial burden being imposed around AMD.