29 September 2016 at 7:01 am
The Minister of Mineral Resources’ decision to uphold an appeal by the Centre for Environmental Rights – on behalf of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) – in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) is an important move towards transparency in environmental decision-making as it relates to mining. The CER commends the Minister for his decision.
This is the first time the Minister of Mineral Resources has overturned a decision by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to refuse records under PAIA since the CER started submitting PAIA requests to the DMR in 2010. During that period, we have submitted more than 30 appeals to the Minister. Other than the FSE appeal, no other appeal to the Minister has ever been decided.
In April 2015, the CER submitted a request for access to information in terms of PAIA to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) for records relating to the proposed underground coal mine by Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd inside the sensitive Mabola Protected Environment.
In May 2015, the DMR “partially granted” the request but access was denied to records relating to the financial provision set aside for rehabilitation by Atha-Africa, the approved or draft mining works programme, and correspondence in pursuit of the written consent required from the Ministers of Environmental Affairs and Mineral Resources for mining to take place in a protected environment. On behalf of the FSE, the CER appealed the DMR’s refusal in July 2015.
While the appeal went undecided for over a year, on 15 September 2016, the Minister of Mineral Resources set aside the decision of the Deputy Information Officer and granted access to these important records.
About the Centre for Environmental Rights:
The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) is a non-profit organisation of activist lawyers who help communities and civil society organisations in South Africa realise our Constitutional right to a healthy environment by advocating and litigating for environmental justice. More about the CER at http://cer.org.za/, or visit us on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/CentreEnvironmentalRights/ and like us on Twitter @CentreEnvRights.