Home Local Pollution exposes lack of accountability between Matjhabeng and Sibanye-Stillwater

Pollution exposes lack of accountability between Matjhabeng and Sibanye-Stillwater

by Editor
Disagreement between the Matjhabeng Local Municipality and Sibanye-Stillwater mine has exposed lack of accountability after wastewater flows on to farmland in Welkom.

By Thys Khiba – Disagreement between the Matjhabeng Local Municipality and Sibanye-Stillwater mine has exposed lack of accountability after wastewater flows on to farmland in Welkom.

“The mine is busy investigating the issue, but we do not know who is responsible,” said Sibanye-Stillwater senior vice-president of investor relations, James Wellsted.

Festive heavy rains filled beyond capacity the Toronto Dam in Welkom which has resulted as flood for the nearby Sibanye-Stillwater mine’s evaporation pans on the 30th of December, last year.

As a result of that, a wall of the evaporation pans was breached, inundating adjacent farmland with possibly contaminated wastewater. No one is willing to take full responsibility for this pollution, as it was expected for the Matjhabeng Local municipality to monitor overflow of the Toronto Dam. On the other side the mine was also expected to maintain the embankments to the pan.

Disagreement between the Matjhabeng Local Municipality and Sibanye-Stillwater mine has exposed lack of accountability after wastewater flows on to farmland in Welkom.
Matjhabeng Local Municipality Head offices in Welkom.

The Toronto Dam serves as a stormwater control facility for the western section off Welkom.

Wellsted claims that they [Sibanye-Stillwater] have warned the municipality about a possible overflow for the dam.

It was discovered that the water reached two of the mine’s three evaporation pans, called Wolwepan One, and Wolwepan Two. The pan wall breach at Wolwepan One flowed into Wolwepan Two, and subsequently on to adjacent farmland.

A decommission of the three evaporation pans took place since 2010.

Following the decommissioning of the three evaporation, the local municipality and Gold Fields, a gold mine which had occupied the same premises as the Sibanye-Stillwater mine, reached an agreement that the municipality can utilize the pans as an overflow contingency should the Toronto Dam exceed full capacity. The agreement was that no sewage should be pumped into the pans, explained Wellsted.

Wellsted continued to say that the Matjhabeng Local Municipality is responsible for maintenance and management of the Toronto Dam – which is situated on municipal land.

“…and specifically, maintenance of the trenches and canals leading to Sibanye-Stillwater’s evaporation pans,” said Wellsted.

Wellsted has also informed media that going into holiday season, the Matjhabeng municicipality had not responded to their requests to address the overflow risk.

Wellsted confirmed the mine is currently fixing the pan wall, that the overflow may have been exacerbated by municipal sewage.

A Matjhabeng municipal council sitting is expected to take place in two weeks where the dam overflow will hopefully be discussed.

“I…cannot say for certain that there was waste and sewage water discharged in the dam, but I know for a fact the [Matjhabeng] municipality discharges waste and sewage water all over Welkom, so this option cannot be ruled out,” said Matjhabeng municipal council member, Igor Scheurkogel.

“Stakeholders, including impacted farmers, the local municipality, Sibanye-Stillwater representatives and the Department of Water and Sanitation have been on site to assess the extent of the potential pollution [in the water], with results at the end of the week.”

At the time of publishing this article, we couldn’t any response or comment from the communication department of the municipality.


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