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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU concern over coal mines’ water-use licences

5 December 2012

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is outraged at the statement by Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba that 21 mines currently supplying over 90-million tons of coal a year to Eskom’s coal-fired power stations are operating without a water-use licence. He told Parliament that the coal mines are waiting for approvals by the Department of Water Affairs for water-use licence applications they have submitted.

It is outrageous that, in a country that is water-stressed, 21 coal mines are operating without water-use licences “while waiting for approval”. Nobody is allowed to drive a car while waiting for a licence!

It suggests that the water-use licences are being treated as simply a bureaucratic rubber-stamp rather than an opportunity for a thorough, independent investigation into the impact of their mining activities on water resources.

Eskom’s excuse that it has done its own internal due diligence and site evaluations on the related water management risks before contracting with the suppliers is unacceptable, given that Eskom has a vested interest in receiving the coal.

What is even more alarming in the Minister’s statement is his refusal to identify the names or locations of the mines involved, as the power stations for which the coal was being procured were regarded as national key points. There is however nothing, in the apartheid-era National Key Points Act which prohibits disclosure information on Eskom’s coal suppliers.

In the context of the controversial Protection of State Information Bill this is an ominous sign of how ministers and officials could deny access to important information which is clearly nothing to do with national security, but also clearly of public interest.