Mining and Biodiversity: Evaluating EAP standards in the sector
As a key recommendation, WWF-SA calls on government to fast track the appointment of EAPASA (Environment Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa) as a registration authority for EAPs to ensure compliance and higher standards in the industry.
EAPs play a critical role. They are meant to filter mining applications with acceptable impacts from those that would have unacceptable environmental impacts, and to then present their findings to the relevant authorities in an objective manner – thus promoting sustainable development in South Africa.
The report revealed an alarmingly high level of non-adherence – approximately a third – to the key biodiversity principles contained in the guidelines. This confirmed what was already being experienced in practice, namely “that certain EAPs and/or mining houses are apparently disregarding critically important environmental information in the completion of their coal mining or prospecting applications”.
Released in September 2014, the Mining and Biodiversity: Evaluating EAP standards in the sector study was funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and commissioned by WWF South Africa off the back of key findings in the 2011 WWF-SA report titled Coal and Water Futures in South Africa: the case for protecting headwaters in the Enkangala grasslands.
The area of both studies was the WWF-SA Enkangala Grasslands project domain which are a major water source area, giving rise to the Vaal, Thukela and Pongola rivers. With water recognised amongst the scarcest resources in South Africa, grasslands – and their water catchment systems – are crucial for our country’s water security as well as supporting sustainable economic and social development.
The grasslands biome is home to over 4,000 plant species, 15 of South Africa’s 34 endemic animals and ten of our globally threatened bird species. They are also vital for crop food production, foraging for livestock and game farming, and tourism and recreation amongst other things.