WATER, WATER all around . . . not a drop to drink . . .
The West Coast Environmental Protection Association (WCEPA) responded as follows to a media release issued by Kropz Elandsfontein (Pty) Ltd on 8 September 2017 (included below, for reference*). The media release came in response to the announcement that Saldanha Bay Municipality will be accepting the water that Kropz is removing from the 5 – 10 million year old Elandsfontein aquifer on which it has established its controversial phosphate mine.
The WCEPA – represented by Cullinans & Associates – has opposed this mine from the outset due to the threat it poses to the eco-systems and livelihoods dependent on the Elandsfontein aquifer and Langebaan Lagoon.
The following comments by the WCEPA respond to the most troubling and misleading statements made by Kropz in its 8 September 2017 media release:
- The allegation that Saldanha Bay Municipality (SBM) will “circumvent” the WUL by receiving water from Elandsfontein, is groundless.
WCEPA: “Given the water crisis, it is true that SBM cannot provide Kropz with the volumes agreed to unless SBM provides Kropz with the water abstracted from the aquifer which Kropz is forbidden from using under its water use licence. Furthermore, SBM incorrectly states in its press statement that it is bound by the water use licence to provide the water to Kropz, which is impossible, since the water use licence does not and cannot regulate water services. The water use licence merely takes cognizance of a pre-existing agreement between SBM and the mine to provide the mine with 1.6 million litres of water per day, and WCEPA believes that the decision to enter into this agreement with Kropz should be set aside on the basis that the decision was unreasonable, irrational, and reckless, when considering that SBM had knowledge of the impending water crisis at the time when the agreement was made.”
- Kropz has repeatedly invited the Chairperson of the WCEPA to engage with the company and to raise her concerns. These requests have been declined.
WCEPA: “It is false that WCEPA consistently refuses to meet with Kropz. Kropz and WCEPA were scheduled to meet before and Kropz cancelled at the last minute. WCEPA wrote to Kropz’ attorney on 8 September indicating that WCEPA is willing to meet Kropz if Kropz provides WCEPA with all the water related data, and unrestricted access to the mining site. If Kropz is not willing to provide all the facts that our client requires for informed discussion, we believe that it exposes an intention not to engage meaningfully but to frustrate.”
- To date, WCEPA has not raised any scientifically supported concerns that rebut the findings of any of the specialists employed.
WCEPA: “It is false that WCEPA has not raised any scientifically supported concerns that rebut the findings of any of the specialists employed. To date, WCEPA has provided Kropz with 3 geohydrological reviews by eminent local and international geohydrologists showing, on scientific grounds, that dewatering and reinjection will likely cause harm to the aquifer and connected ecosystems, and that Kropz’ groundwater studies are inadequate to identify the degree and ambit of the harm. Under the circumstances the DWS should have turned the application down under the precautionary principle.”
- All permits and contingencies are in place.
WCEPA: “It is false that Kropz has all their permissions in place. Kropz did not obtain an environmental authorization under the National Environmental Management Act for various activities that it has undertaken despite being urged to do so by the MEC, and Kropz’ water use licence (WUL) was automatically suspended when WCEPA lodged an appeal against the WUL with the Water Tribunal.
On 26 June 2017 WCEPA’s attorneys provided the attorneys representing Kropz with a copy of WCEPA’s notice of appeal to the Water Tribunal against the granting of the water use licence. Kropz has not taken any action to overturn the suspension to date. WCEPA had a choice to appeal to the Tribunal or the Minister under the national Water Act, and chose to appeal to the Tribunal. Kropz ignores the Water Tribunal’s jurisdiction despite WCEPA’s legal representative having explained to Kropz’ legal representative in the clearest terms that Kropz’ position is based on incorrect information, and an incorrect reading of the National Water Act and the Water Tribunal Rules. Kropz is knowingly laboring under an incorrect understanding of the law regulating challenges to water use licences, and the legal effect of our client’s appeal to the Tribunal. This position does put Kropz’ PR firm in a position to publish denials that at least sound legitimate to the layperson i.e. that the DWS hadn’t informed Kropz of the appeal, when notice from the DWS is not required for a valid appeal to the Water Tribunal. The correct position is that is that notice from the DWS is not required, that a valid appeal was lodged to the water tribunal, and that Kropz’ water use licence is currently suspended under section 148(2) of the national Water Act. If Kropz wishes to challenge the validity of the appeal it is free to approach the Tribunal or the courts to have the appeal declared invalid, but until it has done so, the appeal remains valid and the water use licence remains suspended. Kropz’ continued dewatering of the aquifer is a criminal offence under the National Water Act and the National Environmental Management Act, and under the latter Act, the directors and officers of Kropz can be held criminally liable in their personal capacities for committing this crime.”
For further information please contact:
Nicola Viljoen of the WCEPA
Mobile: 072 297 2222
Annette Gibbs for media relations
Mobile: 082 467 1295
Photos: Tanzanite mining millionaire Mike Nunn (left), the master mind behind KROPZ and Langebaan business man Arie Dempers, who sold his farm to Elandsfontein Exploration & Mining (Pty) Ltd for a whopping R35 million in 2010. * Story at the bottom
* For reference: 8 September 2017 statement by Kropz
KROPZ WELCOMES SALDANHA BAY MUNICIPALITY RESPONSE TO ALLEGATIONS OF COMPLICITY
Stands by its previous statements and welcomes constructive discussions on legitimate concerns
08 September 2017. Kropz Limited has noted with concern the allegations by the West Coast Environmental Protection Association (WCEPA). The allegation that Saldanha Bay Municipality (SBM) will “circumvent” the WUL by receiving water from Elandsfontein, is groundless. SBM has made it clear that the decision to take water from the Elandsfontein aquifer will be based on scientific research and the approval of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).
Kropz stands by its previous statements and wishes to repeat the following key points of fact:
- Elandsfontein is the recipient of water by SBM, obviating the use of water from the aquifer for the mining process. Elandsfontein’s demand for potable water for processing amounted to 1.6 million litres (less than 2% of SBM’s total water demand).
- Elandsfontein and SBM are jointly investigating the possibility of suppling water to SBM from the Elandsfontein Aquifer to assist SBM in having sufficient water during the current drought, and possibly in the long term.
- SBM has appointed a reputable hydrogeologist to determine the sustainability of water from the aquifer during the drought and long term.
- Depending on the outcome of the investigation, SBM will obtain the necessary permissions from DWS, before the water that is currently abstracted from the aquifer is supplied to SBM.
Kropz refutes the following allegations by WCEPA that:
- The supply of water from the aquifer by Elandsfontein to SBM would be to enable SBM to meet the terms of its water supply agreement with Elandsfontein, thus circumventing the Elandsfontein water use license.
The supply of water from Elandsfontein would assist SBM to meet the current water demands of all domestic and industrial users.
- The de-watering and water re-injection is dysfunctional.
In fact, the operation is exceeding expectations.
Despite unscientific concerns that the aquifer would not accept the water re-injected into it, it has done so. The process has been extremely successful. The water level for each recharge borehole is constantly monitored and all data is recorded for data purposes.
- Elandsfontein has been established without the necessary permits and contingencies.
All permits and contingencies are in place.
- Elandsfontein’s water use license is under appeal, is currently suspended and thus the mine is abstracting water illegally.
Elandsfontein has not been advised by the relevant regulator, DWS, of either an appeal or a suspension. Consequently, its license is valid and its abstraction of water is legal.
- Elandsfontein’s activities will have a negative impact on the aquifer and the Langebaan lagoon.
A number of expert and specialist studies have been done on the possible impact of Elandsfontein’s activities on the aquifer and the lagoon. The studies show that no other water users will be affected by the mine’s operations. Elandsfontein shared the results and outcomes of these studies and the findings from its numerical ground water model with interested and affected parties and presented the results at a number of public meetings within the local communities.
Kropz has repeatedly invited the Chairperson of the WCEPA to engage with the company and to raise her concerns. These requests have been declined. To date, WCEPA has not raised any scientifically supported concerns that rebut the findings of any of the specialists employed. Kropz maintains its open door policy and welcomes constructive discussions on any legitimate concerns raised by any party.
WCEPA MEDIA STATEMENT – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Another surprise announcement as “complicit” Saldanha Bay Municipality bails out controversial Elandsfontein mine
[CAPE TOWN, 30 AUGUST 2017] During the course of last week it became known that the Saldanha Bay Municipality plans to accept all water that Kropz Elandsfontein (Pty) Ltd (Kropz) is removing from the 5 – 10 million year old Elandsfontein aquifer on which it has established its controversial opencast phosphate mine.
The Municipality’s surprise decision follows an equally unexpected earlier announcement by Kropz that it would delay – for an extended period – mining at Elandsfontein due to, among others, “technical issues identified during commissioning”.
Carika van Zyl, chairperson of the West Coast Environmental Protection Association (WCEPA), which has opposed the mine from the outset due to the threat it poses to the eco-systems and livelihoods dependent on the Elandsfontein aquifer and the Langebaan Lagoon, says of the latest developments:
“We believe that at least two of the ‘technical issues’ to which Kropz refers in its 15 August statement announcing the delay, are:
- The Saldanha Bay Municipality is unable to provide the 1.6 million liters per day it promised to the mine, and Kropz’s Water Use License (WUL) prohibits it from removing water directly from the aquifer. Under the new arrangement, the municipality will be able to provide water for industrial use, and the Elandsfontein mine with the very water abstracted from the mine as a ‘water service’ to effectively circumvent the prohibition in the WUL.
- As expected by several water experts, the reinjection wells into the aquifer are ostensibly not working as well as planned. The new arrangement instantly solves the considerable problems this presents in that Kropz is able to use the municipality’s water infrastructure as a convenient alternative to relay water extracted during the daily mine dewatering process. Kropz has been attempting to artificially recharge the aquifer – at an injection rate never before successfully achieved in SA – with the water generated as a result of the dewatering.”
Walter Anderson, Senior Associate at Cullinans & Associates, the law firm representing the WCEPA in its fight against Kropz, says: “It is notable and concerning that the Saldanha Bay Municipality’s resolution focusses almost exclusively on how the drought affects industry, when one would expect drinking water and sustainable use of water resources to be the first priority. When an emergency situation like this presents itself we have to question whether water intensive industries like phosphate mining and processing are appropriate in perpetually water stressed environments such as the West Coast. If we accept that the water shortage is only going to get worse, it is hard to see how it is acceptable for the municipality to use the mine’s abstraction infrastructure to take water that the mine is prohibited from using under the water use licence (which is currently suspended in any event) and to furnish millions of litres of that same water to the mine every day in circumvention of the water use licence. The Constitution provides people with a right to sufficient water, and Saldanha Bay Municipality should only draw from sensitive water resources held in public trust to ensure that people have drinking water, but emergency procedures are not meant to bail out water intensive industries that should not have been established in an area without excess water in the first place.”
Van Zyl concludes: “Kropz acted recklessly from the very beginning by establishing this mine without the necessary permits and contingencies. Since the water issues are only going to get worse, Saldanha Bay Municipality should not be complicit in allowing the mine to be further established, because it is not sustainable from a water management perspective and the mine is not going to be a significant job creator if it closes its doors every time that there is a water shortage or dip in phosphate prices. Equally as important is that, with its WUL suspended and under appeal, Kropz is currently abstracting water unlawfully.”
Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital has shares in the Elandsfontein phosphate mining project, which is an initiative of the former Zimbabwean mining entrepreneur, Mike Nunn.