An appraisal of the quality of mining EIA reports
Hoffmann, Armand Rousseau
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Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the tools used by reIevant authorities all over the world in an attempt to ensure that the principles of sustainable development are achieved. Since EIA became mandatory in South Africa, many EIAs have been conducted. As one of the principle industries contributing to the South African economy, the mining sector is no exception. It is also true that the mining industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental impacts. In order to ensure that EIA achieves its goal, it is necessary to test the quality of EIA systems and reports. There are various methods to achieve this, one being the use of Environmental Impact Assessment Report quality review packages to test the quality of the EIRs produced in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, Act 107 of 1998, and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, Act 28 of 2002, both of which require that EIA be conducted. In order to conduct a quality review, the Lee and Colley review model was adapted for use in the South African mining sector. This model was used to assess the quality of 20 approved EIRs submitted to the relevant authority, i-e. the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME). Results derived from the use of this mode1 indicate that the majority of EIA reports in the in the mining sector are of an acceptable standard. However, the results also indicate a number of weaknesses. Several key areas of EIA do not receive sufficient attention, specifically the identification of impacts and the consideration of alternatives. This could undermine the effectiveness of the whole EIA process.