Court: Harmony must pay for acid water

2012-07-02 19:02

Pretoria - Harmony Gold Mining Company [JSE:HAR] must continue paying for pumping and treating acid mine water in and around the Orkney gold mine, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled on Monday.

Judge Tati Makgoka dismissed an application by the Harmony Gold Mining Company for the court to set aside a November 2005 directive by the department of water affairs under the National Water Act's anti-pollution section.

Harmony Gold contended the directive no longer applied to it since it sold the mine to Pamodzi Gold Orkney in 2007 and is no longer the owner.

Pamodzi went into provisional liquidation in 2009.

The departmental directive forced Harmony and other companies mining in the Klerksdorp, Orkney, Stilfontein and Hartebeesfontein (Kosh) area of the North West province to share the costs of pumping and treating acid mine water.

The directive was to remain in effect until the mining houses had reached an agreement on the long-term management of mine water in the area - an agreement that was never concluded.

Harmony approached the court for relief when the department refused to withdraw the directive.

The company maintained the directive was unreasonable and constitutionally impermissible as there was no longer any link between it and the land or the pollution.

Judge Makgoka said the directive was issued when Harmony owned the land.

"The applicant's mining activities polluted and contributed to the pollution of the underground water in the Kosh area," he said.

"The applicant derived financial benefit from its pollution activities.

"Without fully complying with the directive, and while the obligations in terms of the directive remained unfulfilled, the applicant disposes of its entire issued share capital to Pamodzi in August 2007.

"It is therefore not correct that the applicant is obliged to take responsibility for others' contribution to the pollution."

He said the directive required of Harmony to take measures, among others, for pollution which occurred while it owned the land.

"There is therefore a clear causal and moral link between the directive and the applicant's pollution activities."

Makgoka said Harmony's interpretation of the act would lead to a glaring absurdity in that a landholder who caused pollution through his activities could escape his obligations by simply disposing of the land.

Such an interpretation would defeat the purpose and principles of the National Environmental Management Act, the Water Act and Constitution, he said.

"Until the applicant fully complies with the directive, the directive remains valid," Makgoka concluded.

  • judith.taylor.56 - 2012-07-02 20:57

    At last a definitive judgement - may we move forward positively from here and make sure the mining companies clean up the toxic mess they have left behind. Anyone who thinks mining creates jobs and wealth has to be seriously naive. They do anything but!

  • Koos - 2012-07-03 01:35

    This is one of the factors why mine nationalisation was pushed. Although it is supported by the majority zoomer don't support it as it would not benefit any of the zoomer backers. The longer they can delay nationalisation the bigger the financial losses to his 'enemies'. Keep in mind that the 'strategic' nationalisation will be done in the coal sector. Who is the shareholders of Kumba/Exarro?

      carin.bosman - 2012-07-03 13:03

      Koos, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about... who do you think is going to pay for the prevention and clean-up of pollution caused by mines, historic and current, if they are nationalised?? Yup, thats right... the TAXPAYER!! What should happen is that landowners should get royalties from the income generated by the mines, and be co-responsible for any pollution, to ensure that taxpayers dont carry the burden of AMD.

  • leonard.rom.7 - 2012-07-03 08:39

    harmony gold must pay they made the profits they did the damage they should also pay towards our high Eskom bills AND NEW ROADS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • danmotaung - 2012-07-03 09:29

    This is a good judgement. Industries do as they like and in the process leave a trail of destruction in their way and want to abdicate their responsibilities. Our communities live in dangerous conditions while owners enjoy profits and stay far away and don't even care.

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