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NA Passes NEMLA Bill

February 1, 2019

Department of Environmental Affairs

The National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill has been passed by the national assembly and sent to the national council of provinces for concurrence.

The bill was tabled in May 2017.

It was remitted back to the portfolio committee on environmental affairs in September 2018 prior to its second reading debate in the national assembly.

The committee adopted the bill in June 2018 and sent it to the national assembly for its second reading debate scheduled for 4 September 2018.

However, the former environmental affairs minister, Edna Molewa, wrote to the speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete, requesting the postponement of the second reading debate.

The bill seeks to amend a raft of environmental legislation including the National Environmental Management Act, National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, National Environmental Management: Waste Act and the National Environmental Management Amendment Act.

It aims to provide for clarity on certain matters and textual amendments.

The proposed legislation seeks to put in place a single application process for licences and permits and allow for the issuing of integrated licences and authorisations.

In terms of the one environmental system provisions, the bill seeks to provide for simultaneous submission of all environmental applications linked to mining activities and clarify that the mineral resources minister is responsible for implementation of the licensing system for waste activity flowing from mining operations.

During its deliberations, the committee introduced new provisions in the bill that were not contained in the tabled bill.

The select committee on land and mineral resources will now process the bill.

Meanwhile, the environmental affairs department recently briefed parliament on the One Environmental System (OES) that came into effect in 2014.

Some of the advantages of the OES include improved cooperation between the environmental affairs, mineral resources and water and sanitation departments and national treasury (financial provisioning for mining) in relation to environmental protection, more efficient and effective decision-making and less “red tape”, improved turn-around times for decision-making and prevention of legacy impacts from mining activities.

The mineral resources department also briefed the portfolio committee on environmental affairs on the OES.

Some of the identified advantages of the OES included a more aligned and much clearer process, removal of confusion in the industry and a joint approach for dealing with common environmental issues.

Some of the shortcomings included different interpretations on transitional arrangements causing confusion, both NEMA and MPRDA applied on mine dumps and emerging miners experiencing financial difficulties on implementation of the system.

The department plans to ensure that all rights holders have adequate financial provision for the remediation of environmental damage.