For the first half of 2017, Thursday mornings were for sitting in the office with a cup of freeze-dried, instant coffee. Its taste might've been lacking, but it got the job done. #PAIAday, as I called this weekly ritual, was my method for prying as much formerly secret information as possible from the country's Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) into the public domain. Between sips of coffee, I would call/email/pester every provincial DMR office on my list for the week. I wanted their documents.
I had my eyes on two main targets: closure certificates and financial provisions for rehabilitation. The latter are the funds set aside by a company in order to get a mining license and begin mining. Similar to a security deposit on an apartment (or "flat" for my British English-speaking fans), these funds cannot actually be used to clean up a site, but they are returned once the mine is closed and earns a closure certificate (this clear failure of the law will likely be amended soon). A closure certificate is a document for which a company applies to the DMR once a site is closed and rehabilitated. It is the key to getting that money back.
My tool for getting these documents was the Promotion of Access to Information Act, or PAIA (essentially the same thing as America's FOIA). In August 2015, I submitted seven PAIA requests to the DMR with assistance from Ms. Mariette Liefferink of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment. Although I later found out that some of my most important requests were granted by December 2015, when I returned to South Africa in late 2016, I was still without the vast majority of these documents.
That's when I decided to launch #PAIAday on the first working day of 2017. This exercise continued for six months. At the end of the process, I have unlocked an unprecedented (in this field, at least) haul of information. Eight of the nine provinces gave me the majority of their information, which I am making 100 percent public at the end of this post.
For example, the above and below photos come from abandoned operations formerly mined by Golfview Mining (Pty) Ltd that was part of Anker Coal and Mineral Holdings South Africa (Pty) Ltd that was part of the Netherlands-based Anker group. With a combination of these documents and others I accessed through well-placed sources, I discovered that in 2015 the mine sites had R622 million (+/- $47.6 million) in total liability, including R29 million (+/- $2.2 million) in environmental liability. An analysis of Mpumalanga's financial provision register revealed that related companies had 10 financial provisions for operations in the province with a grand total of no money in them.
This same exercise is possible (and waiting for you!) on numerous other companies and methods of mining around the country.
In a moment I'll get to where I compiled all the data, but you can also find much of this data in searchable/printable/downloadable Excel spreadsheets I built and published in a series of stories -- here, here and here -- with the Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalism.
And finally, one last thing before the explanation of how to access the data....I've compiled a list of who all the current DMR PAIA officers are (that I know of), so you, too, can submit requests (if they are not the PAIA officer, I have explained their position):
Mr. Diphoko Modiselle
+27 (0)12 444 3284
+27 (0)82 821 1198
Mr. Pieter Alberts (Modiselle's boss and the DMR's head of legal)
+27 (0)12 444 3288
This link will take you to the DMR's contact page where you can find phone numbers for each office.
Ms. Rachel Mkhari
Mr. Jimmy Sekgale (in charge of compiling certain financial records)
+27 (0)11 358 9700/9773
Ms. Mathapelo Mofikadi
+27 (0)57 391 1389
Mr. Siyabonga Panduva
Ms. Puja Singh (Panduva's boss)
Ms. Onicca Mahlangu (in charge of compiling financial records)
Mr. Robert Munyadziwa
+27 (0)15 287 4738
Mr. Abel Mandlazi
+27 (0)18 487 4302
Mr. Mervin Petro
+27 (0)21 427 1039
Eastern Cape & KwaZulu-Natal
Unclear. Call their offices or Modiselle.
Northern Cape (split between two regional offices)
Mr. Luzuko Nxantsiya
Mr. Jasper Nieuwoudt (regional manager)
+27 (0)82 461 7226
Ms. Linda Njemla <Linda.Njemla@dmr.gov.za>,
Ms. Deidre Karsten <Deidre.Karsten@dmr.gov.za>,
Ms. Joleen Engelbrecht <Joleen.Engelbrecht@dmr.gov.za>
*Positions for these three are unclear, but they are involved.
My work in South Africa is over for now, so I am making all this information 100 percent, absolutely, totally public. Below, you will find a link to a Dropbox folder that contains everything I got from the DMR. You are more than welcome to share it. You don't need a Dropbox account to access the data. Simply click the link or copy and paste the URL into your browser. The Word document entitled _South Africa mine closure data explains everything that is in the folder. If anything remains unclear, I am available to explain the data further. That's it. Let's get to work.