Human Rights Watch: SA's 400 abandoned coal mines a risk to surrounding areas

The report says the country, which relies on coal for 80% of its energy production, has failed to clean these mines up, resulting in dangers to residents around these mines.

FILE: Though companies are responsible for cleaning up dead mines, it is government's responsibility to hold these companies responsible. Picture: mulderphoto/123rf.com

The Human Rights Watch has released a report that shows that South Africa has about 400 abandoned coal mines, which poses huge health and safety risks to the communities that surround them.

The report says that the country, which relies on coal for 80% of its energy production, has failed to clean these mines up, resulting in dangers to residents around these mines such as water contamination and dangerous unrestricted open mines.

Human Rights Watch's Vuyisile Ncube says despite it not being a legal requirement for government to clean abandoned mines up prior to 2002, right now there is legislation that makes it mandatory for mining companies to set aside financial provision before they begin their mining operations.

What usually happens is because local government does not review this financial provision annually, and because they don't hold companies accountable, by the time the mine has reached its end of life, that financial provision ends up being insufficient to do proper clean up.

Vuyisile Ncube, Finberg fellow at the Environment and Human Rights Division - Human Rights Watch

Ncube goes on to say that though companies are responsible for cleaning up dead mines, it is government's responsibility to hold these companies responsible.

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This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Human Rights Watch: SA's 400 abandoned coal mines a risk to surrounding areas