Heritage impact assessment (HIA): step lightly

Most developers think that heritage impact assessment (HIA) applies only to graves; but roads, power lines, cables, or pipelines, require prior HIAs.

The need for an HIA may arise during construction, if historic, prehistoric or palaeontological scientific resources, like structures or fossils, are discovered, as part of an environmental impact assessment (EIA), writes archaeologist Karen van Ryneveld.

A current tussle between the Department of Water and Environment, and the Department of Mineral Resources, involves assessment of environmental and heritage impacts, and plans to minimise these impacts, by coal mining on the Limpopo River hear Schroda, an Iron Age settlement site, adjacent to the Mapungubwe cultural landscape.

Some developers fear land claims, which in fact are not necessarily linked to heritage resources.

Heritage impact categories

Archaeologists are usually called in to do basic, surface surveys, named Phase 1 HIAs. Where they do locate heritage resources, most developers opt for conservation rather than mitigation.

A number of highly effective mitigation excavation projects, categorised as Phase 2, have been completed in recent years, including part of a proposed mining site in 2008. HIA requirements proposed by the consultant, and accepted by the mine and the authorities, were completed in August 2009. Analysis and reports were made available to scientists and interested parties.

A list of heritage resource types are given in Section 3 of NHRA 1999. These include palaeontological and archaeological deposits or sites, built structures older than 60 years, sites of cultural significance associated with oral histories, burial grounds and graves and cultural landscapes or viewscapes.

Heritage could require a Palaeontological Impact Assessment (PIA), or Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA), or Socio-cultural consultation (ScIA).

Prior heritage impact assessment

Desktop studies are reports based on literature and database searches, in other words focussing on known resources. These studies often serve to give an overall impression of the kinds of heritage resources that can be expected in a general area.

By implication they very seldom represent actual information from the particular geographically defined development area and in that sense their value lies primarily in the ‘Scoping’ rather than the ‘Assessment Phase’ of a study site. In most cases desktop studies don’t form a compulsory part of the HIA.

An exception to this rule is palaeontological desktop studies. Due to the nature of palaeontological deposits with its close geological association, a palaeontologist may conclude that palaeontological resources are not expected or will not be present at a particular development area. Such recommendations are often accepted by SAHRA as sufficient for purposes of a HIA without insisting on a Phase 1 PIA.

Heritage site assessment

Phase 1 assessments are systematic surface surveys or reconnaissance studies that cover the total proposed study site, and immediate surrounds in case of inferred development impact spill-over.

The purpose of these studies is to locate protected heritage resources. Located resources are then mapped, documented and described. Resources / sites are assigned a significance rating, according to the SAHRA Site Significance Assessment System and based on the significance rating recommendations regarding the future of the site is made.

If no heritage resources were identified during a Phase 1 PIA or AIA, then the Phase 1 is basically where HIA requirements for the project end. But if resources were identified then Phase 2 Heritage Management will become an integrated part of the HIA.

Phase 1 HIAs often take time and money. “Why would this Phase 1 HIA take x weeks and cost more than what my neighbour was quoted?”, asked a developer. A Phase 1 HIA is a systematic surface survey and in that directly linked to the surface extent (ha or m²) of the development area.

The ‘size’ of a Phase 1 PIA or AIA is based on the surface area that can realistically be covered or assessed in a day versus the actual size or surface area of the study site.
Vegetation, geology, landscape gradient, general accessibility and so on, thus all play a part.

In that a 60ha development area implies a ‘smaller’ Phase 1 HIA than a 1500ha study site, despite the fact that in mining terms the 60ha development area, where a company is perhaps intending to mine a diamondiferous pipe, constituting a much more significant mining development than the 1500ha area proposed for semi-precious stone extraction and associated with ‘bigger’ Phase 1 HIA.

Heritage impact management

Phase 2 Heritage Management involves heritage resources located during Phase 1 HIA recommendations and included in the report. SAHRA Review Comment on the report will outline government approved requirements and minimum standards for Heritage Management of the resources. It is these requirements that will need to be addressed in the EMP.

As a norm more than one Heritage Management option will be possible for a particular site. In some cases a combination of Heritage Management options may provide for a SAHRA approved management plan.

It is the responsibility of the developer / Environmental Consultant to, in consultation with the heritage specialists, weigh the SAHRA approved Heritage Management options for a particular site against the backdrop of generally identified environmental data / issues and development requirements in order to identify the best suited Heritage Management option for the development.

Common HIA recommendations or requirements include:
Site destruction without a SAHRA or PHRA Site Destruction Permit
Site destruction under a SAHRA or PHRA Site Destruction Permit
Site alteration under a PHRA Site Alteration permit
Site conservation
Heritage monitoring
Phase 2 palaeontological or archaeological mitigation under a SAHRA Site Excavation Permit.

Permission to destruct

Site destruction as Heritage Management option is only considered in the case of sites assigned a Low Significance SAHRA rating. In some cases the particulars of the recorded resource is of such a nature that the loss thereof is essentially insignificant to South Africa’s heritage; SAHRA or the local PHRA will approve site destruction without the developer having to apply for a Site Destruction Permit. In other words developer compliance ends with approval of site destruction in the SAHRA / PHRA Review Comment.

In other cases a Low Significance SAHRA rating may be ascribed to resources, significantly enough to ensure that the details thereof continues to be managed, but that no further management requirements rests on the shoulders of the developer.

In such a case SAHRA or the PHRA will approve site destruction under a Site Destruction Permit: The developer applies to SAHRA / PHRA, and upon the issue of a Site Destruction Permit the developer may legally destroy the heritage resource and proceed with development, while SAHRA or the PHRA takes over the function of managing site related data on behalf of the developer.

60 year rule

Site alteration is a Heritage Management option reserved for structures older than 60 years (and primarily pertains to architectural type developments including restoration and renovation).

Structures older than 60 years are protected under NHRA. Alteration, disfigurement or defacement may be done under a provincial SAHRA / PHRA Site Alteration Permit.

If development is blocked

Site conservation is a ‘no development’ Heritage Management option. Conservation requirements are closely tied to identified or inferred heritage site extent and in that site conservation by no means imply ‘no development’ across the total of the proposed development area. Conservation requirements will more than often include that the site be fenced, simply to ensure that development doesn’t impact on the site.

Site conservation as Heritage Management option does accommodate prospecting and mining developments: It focuses on ensuring no development impact on a particular heritage resource with the aim of conserving the site in-situ, implying that when the development term has expired the heritage resource will be intact, in original context and geographic locality.

Heritage Impact Assessment phases

Heritage monitoring as Heritage Management option can be prescribed for a number of reasons including known or inferred protected sub-surface type of deposits at the study site or general area, implying that these type sites won’t necessarily be identified during the Phase 1 or surface survey assessment.

In other cases SAHRA may approve of Heritage monitoring for particularly large development areas where monitoring and phased HIA assessments can be considered in conjunction with detailed prospecting and mining management plans.

Archaeologists dig first

Phase 2 palaeontological or archaeological mitigation often also referred to as ‘rescue excavation’ implies that a located resource or site will be excavated, more than often in part than in totality. The purpose of these ‘rescue excavations’ is to salvage a representative sample of the deposit and to scientifically document and record the details and contexts thereof before prospecting or mining will continue across the sites’ locale.

SAHRA has set excavation, recording and analysis standards for ‘rescue excavations’ to allow a much quicker process than that required for research excavations, particularly to accommodate development time constraints.

However, excavation, recording and analysis remain a slow process, and this needs to be accommodated for in the EMP. If artefacts are removed from a site without the in situ scientific recording thereof, the value of the artefact(s) / site is lost and this is classified as illegal destruction of a heritage resource under the NHRA 1999.

Phase 2 mitigation msut be done by a professional palaeontologist / archaeologist and under a SAHRA Site Excavation Permit. Once the palaeontological / archaeological mitigation is completed the developer will more than often be requested to apply for a SAHRA Site Destruction Permit in order to legally destroy the remainder of the site.

Should Phase 2 mitigation be recommended for an identified gravesite or cemetery as defined in the NHRA 1999 (referred to as ‘grave relocation’), mitigation requirements will also include a public participation process and prescribed minimum standards for re-internment (re-burial) of the human remains.

Significant heritage sites

SAHRA may request a Phase 3 site development programme where a site of such significance has been located during the course of the HIA that SAHRA cannot reasonably approve of the development without ensuring committed conservation or development of the resource.

Site development requirements may thus include that a portion of the site be mitigated according to Phase 2 requirements but including that the remainder, or a portion of the remainder, be kept in-tact and developed for tourism or continued research purposes.
In a case where no Heritage Management option justifies jeopardising the site, or where no option is acceptable to the developer, SAHRA may order that development at the study site don’t proceed based on heritage related concerns.

Socio-cultural impact assessment (ScIA)

Socio-cultural consultation, often erroneously referred to as the Social Impact Assessment (SIA), aims to compile socio-cultural data related to a particular study site and its immediate past and present cultural environment for purposes of a Socio-cultural Impact Assessment (ScIA) as sub-component to the HIA.

Distinguish between Social Impact Assessment, formal SIA, concerned with the compilation of socio-economic data for a proposed development, required for purposes of an EIA under both the MPRDA 2002 and the NEMA 1998 and 2008, and the HIA required ScIA.

The ScIA first and foremost aims to identify intangible heritage resources. Intangible heritage can be simplified as valued cultural traditions transmitted from generation to generation, constantly changing in response to environmental, social, political and economic circumstances. Living communities therefore often represents the departure point for enquiry.

SAHRA newsletter Vol 1.1, 2005, define living heritage as representative of the ‘…intangible aspects of inherited culture (and including) tradition, oral history, performance, ritual, language, popular memory, skills and techniques (and) indigenous knowledge systems (IKS)…’ In addition to the identification of intangible or living heritage resources, socio-cultural consultation has greatly contributed to the understanding of our often complex and multifaceted cultural landscapes.

The value of socio-cultural consultation has also been realised in related scientific fields especially archaeology, where consultation, in the past referred to as ethno-archaeological consultation, has made a notable contribution to the understanding of particular types of protected sites.

By the very definition and type of resources needed to be recorded for purposes of a ScIA it is obvious that these assessments vary greatly from one proposed development area to another; the ‘size’ or complexity of which is as a norm, but not a rule, socio-geographically related.

Creative foresight has resulted in many Environmental and Heritage Consultants, supporting the integrated EIA-HIA approach, to argue that it is best to already initiate the HIA, specifically the ScIA component thereof, already in the very initial stages of the Public Participation Process (PPP), where Interested and Affected Parties often form an ideal stepping stone in attempting to determine the scale of socio-cultural impact as well as for enquiry regarding individuals from the particular community who may be able to assist with intangible heritage information.

The interface between the SIA and the ScIA forms an interesting interpretive point for both assessments considering known cultural change associated with economic upliftment or change.

It is quite apparent from the above that the SAHRA managed HIA system, in essence very different from heritage research requirements, has been devised specifically to accommodate development within the broader legislative framework and environmental concepts of ‘responsible development’ and SHEQ (safety, health, environment and quality) management.

Developers pay for impacts

Section 38 [1] of the NHRA 1999 is relevant to prospective developers of;

a road, wall, power line, pipeline, canal or linear barrier exceeding 300m,

bridge or similar structure exceeding 50m,

activity that would change the character of a site exceeding 5000m²; or involving three or more existing erven or subdivisions; or three or more erven or divisions consolidated in the past five years; or the costs of which exceed a sum set by the relevant heritage authority;  or re-zoning of a site exceeding 10 000m²; or as listed by the heritage authority; must at the earliest stages of initiating development, notify the responsible heritage authority of location, nature and extent of proposed development.’
Heritage is state property.

The principle of ‘polluter pays’ applies, meaning that developers pay the cost of impact assessment and management.

Relevant heritage impact assessment legislation

Section 37 [1] of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 28 of 2002, citing the National Environmental Management Ac (NEMA), 107 of 1998, apply to the interpretation, administration and implementation of environmental requirements.

Section 39 [3] [b] of the MPRD Act provides for protection measures for the natural environment, socio-economic environment, and national estate, as ruled in the National Heritage Resources Act, 25 of 1999.

Within the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process under NEMA, as amended in Act No 62 of 2008 and the NEMA Regulations of 2006, a formal assessment of the national estate, or Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), is required in a second phase of an EIA, under the section generally labelled ‘Specialist Studies’.

An HIA, in terms of MPRDA, NEMA 1998 and 2008, and NHRA 1999, is compulsory to any Environmental Management Plan or Program (EMP) for prospecting or mining development.

HIAs are performed by independent Heritage Consultants, and HIA reports are submitted to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), which implements NHRA.

SAHRA’s Review Comment on an HIA is a specialist government opinion on heritage concerns relating to the development for purposes of an EMP and Record of Decision (RoD).

Developers could appoint a Heritage Consultant to do the HIA, or the HIA could be incorporated into the broader framework of the EIA, where the appointed Environmental Consultant ensures HIA compliance. Both are legal approaches to the HIA, provided the HIA forms an integrated part of the proposed developments’ EMP.

Who to call

Visit www.sahra.org.za. SAHRA Western Cape was in early 2010 the only fully operational provincial SAHRA office with an established Archaeology, Palaeontology and Meteorites Unit. SAHRA Burial Grounds and Graves Unit is based in Johannesburg.

SAHRA APM Unit 021 462 4502
SAHRA BGG Unit 011 403 2460
SAHRA Western CapeAPM Unit 021 465 2198
PHRA Western Cape  021 483 9695
SAHRA Northern Cape 053 831 2537
PHRA Northern Cape 053 807 4700
SAHRA Eastern Cape 046 622 8310
PHRA Eastern Cape 043 722 1934
SAHRA Free State 051 430 4139
PHRA Free State 051 410 4750
SAHRA Gauteng 011 403 0683
PHRA Gauteng 011 355 2574
SAHRA North-West 018 381 2032
PHRA North-West 018 388 2826
SAHRA Limpopo 015 291 1804
PHRA Limpopo 015 291 3708
SAHRA Mpumalanga 013 752 2884
PHRA Mpumalanga 013 766 5196
AMAFA APM Unit Polokwane 033 394 6543

KZN contacts

IN KZN, visit www.heritagekzn.co.za. KZN heritage management is administered by AMAFA, and requirements of the NHR Act are replaced by provincial heritage legislation including the KZN Heritage Act, 10 of 1998, replaced by the KZN Heritage Act, 4 of 2008. Contact AMAFA APM for a list of accredited palaeontologists and archaeologists who may perform HIAs in KZN.

•    Karen van Ryneveld is an archaeologist at ArchaeoMaps Archaeological Consultancy, 043 740 2370, 084 871 1064, kvanryneveld@gmail.com

PHOTO; Historic resources could be difficult to identify, find, assess, and preserve, like these prehistoric steps cut for access to the top of a smooth granite exposure near Mapungubwe and Shcroda. The exposure is already impacted by a road and power line, yet forms part of the larger Mapungubwe cultural landscape.

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