The National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces have approved the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill 2013. The bill will introduce changes to the transfer of mining and prospecting rights, the processing of applications, community rights, benefaction and mine dumps, among other things.
The long-delayed contaminated land provisions in Part 8 of Chapter 4 of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act came into effect on May 2 2014. While the act came into force on July 1 2009, the contaminated land provisions have been dormant for almost five years. There are a number of implications of the commencement of the provisions – particularly for the transfer of contaminated land.
The Constitutional Court recently resolved a longstanding dispute on whether consent or authorisation is required in terms of land use and environmental legislation for mining activities. The court cleared up the confusion regarding the land use planning competence of municipalities, but did not clarify the position on the regulation of environmental matters in the mining sphere.
All new buildings and extensions must comply with the buildings energy usage provisions laid out in the amended National Building Regulations. The amendments introduce requirements for energy usage in buildings by setting minimum standards for energy efficiency with which all new buildings and extensions must comply. The regulations are part of efforts to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The National Environmental Management Waste Act came into force in 2009, with the exception of the provisions that regulate contaminated land. The Department of Environmental Affairs is taking steps as a precursor to the enactment of these provisions. However, as they stand, the provisions fall short of what a potentially effective regime should include.
The National Environmental Management Act, read together with the Criminal Procedure Act, provides for individuals to institute private criminal prosecutions for the protection of the environment. This is a risk for companies which have reached an accommodation with the authorities regarding environmental laws, only to be faced with a private prosecution. While the act facilitates such proceedings, there are limitations.
Recent developments in South African air quality legislation have heralded substantial changes in air quality management by introducing maximum emissions limits and amendments to activities requiring licences. For the first time, specific emissions limits and standards are set for listed activities, specifying permissible amounts, volumes, emission rates and concentrations of particular substances that may be emitted.
In a recent parliamentary question and answer session the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs announced an agreement with the Department of Mineral Resources to issue water use licences and mineral authorizations in parallel in an effort to ensure that mining does not commence before a water use licence has been issued.
There is ongoing debate on whether the National Environmental Management Act extends to liability for historical environmental pollution or degradation that pre-dates the act. The High Court recently held that the provisions are not retrospective and, accordingly, the obligation to take corrective measures does not apply where pollution and degradation were caused or began before the date of commencement of the act.
Since the recent entry into force of the National Environmental Management: Waste Management Act, certain industry representatives have claimed that the new legislation has introduced extended producer liability into law. This update explores whether the act has introduced extended producer responsibility or liability for waste.
The High Court recently highlighted the importance of obtaining the appropriate authorization for scheduled processes under the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act. In particular, the court highlighted the fact that operating with the wrong type of authorization is unlawful, irrespective of whether the authorities were mistaken about the type of authorization required for a particular activity when granting the incorrect authorization.
The use of South Africa's Promotion of Access to Information Act 2000 to obtain environmental information from entities was recently highlighted by the submission of an application for access to quality reports on drinking water from a local authority. A political opposition party submitted an application under the act for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to disclose its data on the quality of local tap and surface water.
New laws may be in the pipeline to address climate change following the finance minister's 2009 budget speech, in which he announced specific additional measures which South Africa will implement in response to climate change. The proposals the minister made will require reforms of some fiscal and environmental legislation because some of the measures he announced are not currently provided for in the law.
Although legislative efforts to improve the regulatory system for environmental management in South Africa have been welcomed, there has been considerable debate about some of the changes that Parliament intends to effect. This update provides a general discussion of the changes to environmental legislation during 2008.
The National Environmental Management: Waste Management Bill is now well on its way to becoming law. The bill has been the subject of some criticism from various sectors throughout the legislative process. The general public and experts have expressed concerns about its overlap with other statutes, failure to address the importation of hazardous waste and provisions on contaminated land.
Industries have been slow in taking advantage of the Kyoto Protocol’s potential benefits, particularly the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and certified emission reductions (CER) trading. Ranked among the highest carbon emitters per head in the world, South African industries could receive both substantial incomes and cleaner technology from CER trading and the CDM - at the expense of industries in developed nations.