A 19-month data investigation of mine closures indicates that since at least 2011 no large coal mines operating in South Africa have been granted closure.
This means the mines have not been rehabilitated and are simply abandoned, leaving a legacy of local and global pollution.
The country’s operating and abandoned coal mines release greenhouse gases with a global warming effect equivalent to up to 4.3-million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, estimates mining consulting firm Latona Consulting. That roughly equates to consuming 10-million barrels of oil and could be significantly decreased with proper mine rehabilitation, including backfilling pits, sealing shafts and replanting flora.
“The Department of Mineral Resources has been totally incapable of closing individual mines,” said David Hallowes, a coal researcher at the non-profit organisation groundWork. “A lot of this land is high productive agricultural land, and it’s ruined. End of story.”
Never-before-seen data released by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in response to Oxpeckers requests under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) exposes a system of mine closure in which large operations rarely apply for closure certificates and almost never receive them. Without a closure certificate, liability cannot transfer from a mining company to the government and a mine is not considered legally closed.
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