Three national environment acts which make amendments relating to prospecting, exploration, mining or production activities were signed by President Jacob Zuma on Friday.
The three acts include the National Environmental Management Laws (Third) Amendment Act, the National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act and the National Water Amendment Act.
The National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act aims to address aspects of exploration, prospecting, mining and production activities which were previously excluded from the scope of the act.
Such activities were referred to in three acts including the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (2002), the National Environmental Management Act (1998) and the National Water Act (1998) and this created duplication and also long delays in processing applicable authorisations in the various departments.
The amendment act therefore brings these authorisations under the central authority of the Department of Environmental Affairs which will develop and maintain applicable regulations under one system (NEMA).
However, under this NEMA system the Department of Mineral resources will be the competent authority in environmental cases with respect to mining and related activities.
The Minister of Mineral Resources will therefore be empowered to issue waste management licences for residue stock piles and deposits on a prospecting, mining, exploration or production area.
The amendments of the National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act will:
• Establish a waste management bureau to provide for capacity for implementation of waste management plans and associated waste charges.
• Address processing and approval processes regarding integrated waste management plans and industry waste management plans.
The act acknowledges the identification of the waste sector as having potential for job creation and contributing to the macro economy.
The National Water Amendment Act clarifies the roles of the water affairs department and the Water Tribunal relating to water use licences applicable to prospecting, exploration, mining or production activities.
The amendment will therefore allow for the Minister of Environment and Water Affairs and the tribunal to be the responsible authority for appeals relating to these activities.
The act will come into operation on the same date as the National Environmental Laws Third Amendment Act (2014) to which it primarily refers and which will come into effect three months from the date of publication.
The Waste Amendment Act came into operation on the date of its publication in the Government Gazette.
The explanatory summaries of the three assented acts were published in the Government Gazette on 2 June 2014.
The water legislation was published in notice 450 in Gazette 37715, the waste legislation in notice 449 in Gazette 37714 and the management laws legislation in notice 448 in Gazette 37713.