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Harmony Gold Mining Co Ltd v Regional Director: Free State, Department Water Affairs and Forestry
South Africa
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This case dealt with a gold mining company required to take anti-pollution measures in respect of pollution on its land but such measures had to be taken on the land of other gold mines. The appellant was Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited, one of five gold mining companies with mines in a basin of North-West Province. The uppermost sedimentary layer in most of the area held large quantities of pristine groundwater in aquifers. The creation of inclined shafts had caused water to flow out of the aquifers into the horizontal passages and so from mine to mine. When water came into contact with mined-out reefs it became polluted. Despite their gold mining operations having ceased years ago, dewatering of groundwater from their shafts had to continue since. There was a directive addressed to the appellant stating that in order to prevent pollution of ground and surface water resources in the vicinity of the mines and to ensure mining safety, underground water needed to be removed and treated to an acceptable quality and thereafter either used or discharged into the environment. For a particular period, the appellant was directed to manage the water in the described way also on the land of other mines. The appellant argued that the law did not require it to take, or pay for, anti-pollution measures on another company’s land such as the directive required. The court analyzed the relevant provisions and concluded that the said anti-pollution measure were reasonable. The constitutional and statutory anti-pollution objectives would be obstructed if the measures required were limited to measures on the same land. If the choice were between an interpretation confining preventive measures to one’s own land and a construction without that limitation it was clear that the latter interpretation would be consistent with the purpose of the Constitution and the relevant law and the former not. Thus it decided that there was no such territorial limitation as the appellant contended for. The various mines concerned had been required to join forces in continuing with a dewatering process. It was within the scope of reasonable preventive measures to require this collaboration and to require the companies concerned to share the expense of it. The appeal was therefore dismissed.