Diesel, used oil and other motor vehicle waste products have polluted groundwater at the Sishen mine in the Northern Cape for years, according to documents submitted by Imperial Crown Trading 289 (ICT) to the North Gauteng High Court.
The court documents contained a report from Golder and Associates, an international environment consultation group, on environmental damage at the Aldag dam, a waste site in the middle of the Sishen mine at Kathu.
ICT submitted the documents in the case of its legal dispute with Kumba Iron Ore over mineral rights in Sishen that were granted to ICT, but which Kumba wants the court to declare null and void.
The documents also contained statements by Armando Costa, CEO of environmental company Emkhankasweni Waste Management Services (EWMS), which was appointed to clean up the polluted land, but whose services were terminated because he complained to Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll about delays with the cleaning-up work.
According to Costa’s statements, fatalities occurred in Kathu when the mine’s slimes dams overflowed and the contents of these dams were pumped into the town’s sewage system.
Costa had talks with ICT’s legal team last year over what he regards as criminal violations by Kumba, but he said in the documents that Kumba CEO Chris Griffith heard about this and threatened him.
Since 2004, EWMS has done cleaning-up work in a part of Sishen known as South mine, and later at the Aldag dam. EWMS treated about 27,000 tonnes of 60 000t poisoned ground at South mine, but was instructed to move to Aldag before this work was completed.
In 2008 Kumba built a wide road in South mine, which resulted in the untreated poisoned land being buried, Costa said.
Costa said it was clear that Kumba was in violation of the National Environmental Management Act in many respects. Despite enormous quantities of poisoned, polluted waste being created in the activities, no environmental impact study was done and no legally approved environmental management programme was drawn up, he said.
Insufficient measures were in place at the Aldag dam and a dumping site at South mine to prevent the further pollution of land under the two sites and of groundwater, while serious pollution occurred widely in areas near the dumping site. This was confirmed by three scientific studies: the Golder report, a report by toxicologist Ockie Fourie, and a report by mining consultation group SRK.
According to the Golder report, on one occasion in 1994 a total of 600,000 litres of diesel were dumped in the Aldag dam.
In January 2009, Costa was asked to do a presentation on the pollution and his company’s work to Carroll, Anglo board member Nicky Oppenheimer as well as to Griffith. Carroll emphasised that Anglo wanted to clear up the environmental, health and safety hazards, because this was important for Anglo’s clients.
EWMS’s services were terminated on April 30 2009, the day on which Kumba’s application to acquire the lapsed mineral rights in terms of ArcelorMittal’s mining right to 21.4% of Sishen was submitted.