Home News Department investigates after mining company ‘blocks off’ river

Department investigates after mining company ‘blocks off’ river

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The Department of Water and Sanitation has dispatched a team to investigate a contentious situation unfolding in the town of Gong Gong, near Barkly West, after a mining company allegedly blocked off the Vaal River by constructing embankments and has started mining in the riverbed.

Picture: Supplied

THE DEPARTMENT of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has dispatched a team to investigate a contentious situation unfolding in the town of Gong Gong, near Barkly West, after a mining company allegedly blocked off the Vaal River by constructing embankments and has started mining in the riverbed.

A number of Gong Gong residents have been up in arms, voicing their grievances about the mining machinery that now dominates the area where the river should freely flow.

The heart of the matter lies in the impact on local livelihoods. Fish populations have dwindled, leaving fishermen bereft of their traditional sustenance. Meanwhile, those who rely on the river for their daily water needs are also suffering as a result of the mining activities.

The spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) in the Northern Cape, Amogelang Moholoeng, acknowledged the mounting complaints from Gong Gong residents regarding mining activities in the Vaal River.

He said the department, in response, conducted an investigation on June 12, 2024, following allegations of illegal water use in terms of section 21(c) and (i) in the river between Gong Gong and Pniel.

He added that a Water Use Licence has been issued to permit water-related activities associated with mining.

“The company is authorised in terms of section 21 of the Act for Section 21(c)(i) water use activities to impede, diverge the flow of the water in a watercourse and to alter the bed, banks and characteristics of the river,” said Moholoeng.

“The Water Use Licence permits mining in the regulated zone through Section 21 c(i) authorisation. Investigations will confirm if there is compliance to the conditions of the authorisation.”

He pointed out that investigations are still under way to determine the boundary between Pniel and Gong Gong in terms of the mining licence, with mining apparently permitted on the Pniel property.

Despite the department’s reluctance to disclose further details about the mining company, citing the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act, Moholoeng provided reassurance that an inspection report detailing the investigation’s findings will be made available once it is finalised.

“The team is still carrying out further investigations,” he said.

Efforts to get comment from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) were unsuccessful.

The chairperson and accounting officer of the Pniel Communal Property Association (CPA), Corrie Solomons, denied the allegations that the mining activities blocked the flow of the river.

He added that the mining company possesses the required Section 21(a,c,g,i) permits from the DWS and DMR to mine in the river on the Pniel property.

Section 21(a) of the Act grants permission to take water from a water resource, subject to the conditions set out in the Appendices 1 and 11.

Section 21(c) grants permission to divert the flow of the water in a watercourse, subject to the conditions set out in Appendices 1 and 11.

Section 21(g) of the Act is for discharging waste or water containing waste into a water resource, subject to the conditions set out in Appendices 1 and 1V.

Section 21(i) of the Act is for disposing of waste in a manner that may detrimentally impact on a water resource, subject to the conditions as set out in Appendices 1 and V.

According to Solomons, the mining company diverted the river to facilitate mining operations at a specific location.

He dismissed the complainants as a disgruntled and envious minority within the community.

Solomons added that the majority of the community views the mining operations favourably due to the benefits they bring.

He said the company has ensured that the community no longer relies on river water for drinking or household purposes. Instead, they now have access to clean water through JoJo tanks.

This was made possible through the company’s collaboration with Dikgatlong Local Municipality following a cholera outbreak.

Solomons said community members have been granted permission to collect wood from the mining area.

Recognising the community’s difficulties in accessing the other side of the river, a bridge was built to facilitate movement.

Solomons further added that community members were given permission to collect round stones near the river and assisted with transportation for selling them near the R31, contributing to local employment opportunities.

Pictures: Supplied
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