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
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The Honourable Minister of Mineral Resources, Ms Susan Shabangu, reinforced during her 2012 budget speech on 10 May 2012, amongst other things, that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) remains determined to continue issuing stoppage notices in terms of section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, No. 29 of 1996 (MHSA) to ensure compliance with the MHSA.
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