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Mining company director convicted

Two weeks ago, the Naphuno Regional Court in Limpopo ruled that Matome Maponya, the managing director of a clay mining company based in Tzaneen, was guilty of causing damage to the environment and sentenced him to five years in prison. This sentence was suspended for five years, on condition that the damage done by the mining operations is rehabilitated within three months. The estimated cost of the rectification is R6.8 million.

Legislation has provided for personal liability of directors breaking environmental laws since 1998 but this is the first time a director of a mining company has been criminally convicted. It is also the first time that the option of a fine was not given. This is a landmark conviction in South Africa and many feel that it sets a precedent, within the mining sector and in other sectors, that is long overdue. Directly linking the conditions of the suspension to physical rehabilitation and placing strict timeframes on adherence makes the possibility of jail time a reality for Mr Maponya. A ruling of this nature means that the offender is far more likely to undertake the necessary rehabilitation than in convictions where fines are imposed.

Under the National Environmental Management Act, provision is made for companies to undertake a retrospective application for Environmental Authorisation. This conviction could see more companies making use of this provision and claiming responsibility for their actions upfront to avoid similar cases being brought against them.

Companies or individuals who are unsure of their legal compliance with environmental legislation can contact our offices in Pretoria, Cape Town or Durban or use sef@sefsa.co.za for advice. We also offer industry-specific and practical training on environmental management, legislation and compliance at a client’s preferred venue.


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