Unrestrained sand mining causes concern

For a while now there have been concerns about large-scale sand mining in the Nsikazi River near Numbi Gate.

To date, enquiries made to several authorities regarding the legality of the operation were unsuccessful.

The Inkomati Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA) was also alerted. An environmental officer promised to investigate, but no feedback has yet been received by Hazyview Herald.

Sand is mined with excavators and tippers taking it out, but also removing indigenous trees and flora.

Efforts to find whether this was authorised by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) were also unsuccessful.

According to a checklist by an environmental auditor, it seems that several transgressions are taking place.

Felicity Henman-Weir, an internationally accredited environmental auditor, pointed out that the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (28 of 2002) requires a mining licence to be issued by the Department of Mineral Resources prior to the commencement of the mining of any mineral; including sand, stone and gravel.

Current illegal sand-mining rates in rivers exceed the natural regenerative capacity of the resources and also damage riparian habitats, wetlands, alter the flow of the river and fragment ecological corridors.

Mining permits must be issued to mines that occupy less than 1,5 hectares and operate for a maximum of five years, and an environmental authorisation from the DEA is required under the South Africa National Environmental Management Act (Nema).

The infilling or depositing of any material more than 10 cubic metres, into, or the dredging, excavation, removal or moving of soil, sand, pebbles or rocks, more than 10 cubic metres from a watercourse is not permitted unless authorised, and will trigger a basic assessment report.

Furthermore, Nema Regulation GN R983 prescribes that if mining takes place within 32 metres of a watercourse, environmental authorisation is necessary from the DEA. A water-use licence from the Department of Water Affairs is also necessary if the mining alters the bed, banks, course or characteristics of the watercourse.

Mining activities should never cause pollution of the water resource (including sedimentation and increased turbidity of water).

This could be from sand mining or run-off from quarries near watercourses. Eroded sediment should be prevented from entering rivers.

Water run-off from the area should be controlled effectively and no pollution of the resource from the mining activity should take place.

  AUTHOR
Mariana Balt
Editor

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