The FF Plus's concern about unrehabilitated mines in Mpumalanga and the danger it poses to the environment was shared by all parties during yesterday's debate in the Provincial Legislature.
The FF Plus requested an urgent debate on the issue, and the adoption of the motion is an important step in recognising the seriousness of the situation.
The ANC government openly admitted that it is a local health crisis, while both the EFF and the DA concurred that urgent intervention is needed.
Although Mpumalanga has approximately 800 deserted coal mines and more than 230 active mines, only six out of the 445 closure certificates, which confirm that the mine has been rehabilitated to the government's satisfaction, had been issued to mining companies in the province at the end of 2019.
More recent information is not available seeing as recordkeeping has since been poor and inaccurate.
The ANC government has done almost nothing to address the poisonous legacy of coal mining.
Government must ensure that the mining companies, which profited from years of coal mining, do not shirk their responsibility of disposing of the life-threatening waste that they left behind.
In 2016, two teenagers drowned in a deserted open mine shaft in Ermelo in the Msukaligwa Local Municipality.
Mining activities in the area were aborted by Imbabala Coal (Pty) Ltd five years before when the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy found that the company did not have the required water licence. After that, the deserted mine filled up with rainwater, in which the two boys eventually drowned.
Unrehabilitated mines pollute residents' water seeing as mining waste that is exposed to the elements can significantly raise the acidity level of water and soil.
Known as acid mine drainage, it can render water unusable and land unproductive, and corrode municipal infrastructure used for water supply.
An investigation found that this has already occurred in Carolina in the Albert Luthuli Local Municipality where it was proven that the municipal infrastructure is collapsing due to acid mine drainage.
In 2012, the High Court instructed the Municipality to take steps to resolve the crisis, but nothing has been done thus far.
The FF Plus will ask the Blue Scorpions to look into the matter and take the necessary steps. A balance must be struck between mining activities and the environment. Those who pollute the environment must receive the severest possible punishment.
Thus far, all steps taken against mines have been administrative in nature, but it is time to take legal action.
The FF Plus will keep fighting to ensure that the environment and its ecosystems are protected.