The recent unreported decision of the North Gauteng High Court in Bert's Bricks (Pty) Ltd and Another v the Inspector of Mines, North West Region and Others has important implications for mining companies and companies which process minerals. The case examined whether production facilities situated close to and on the same farm as a mining operation are governed by the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 ("MHSA").
Although the case focused on mine health and safety issues, and even though the State respondents did not place any evidence before the court, the court's reasoning has important consequences for what constitutes a "mining area" for purposes of the MHSA and the MPRDA, and specifically part (ii) of the definition of "mining area" which relates to "any environmental, health or social and labour matter".
Having examined various relevant definitions, the court found that a brick manufacturing operation was not subject to the MHSA. The court further found that the brick yard did not even fall within the extended meaning of "mining area" as defined in the MPRDA.
The court followed an earlier unreported decision of the High Court in Terra Bricks and Another v the Regional Manager, Limpopo Region Department of Minerals and Energy and Others, in which the court found that a "mine" as defined in the MHSA does not necessarily comprise the whole "mining area" as defined in the MPRDA. The court also found that a production facility such as a brick manufacturing operation is not connected to the processing of a mineral. The court did not find it necessary to elaborate as to what constitutes "related or incidental operations" as provided for in the definition of "mining area" in section 1 of the MPRDA.
Paragraph (ii) of the definition of a "mining area" in the MPRDA, which relates to "any environmental, health or social and labour matter", as well as "any latent or other impact thereto" is drafted widely and includes "adjacent or non-adjacent" surfaces not subject to a mining right on which "related or incidental" operations are being undertaken. It also provides that this includes any area connected to such an area (on which related or incidental operations are conducted) by any road, railway line, pipeline, cableway or conveyor belt.
Because the State respondents did not place any evidence before the court, the issues were not fully ventilated in the Bert's Brick's decision. We expect that as the full implications of the court's finding become clear to the Departments of Mineral Resources and Labour, the question may well arise again in future.
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