Thank you. There's something strong in this water - I don't know what it is. [Laughter.]
As the Minister pointed out in her speech, the purpose of the agreement reached in 2013 between the two Ministers was to bring the environmental function in mining within the scope of the National Environmental Management Act of 1998.
The agreement, entitled, "One environmental system for the country", with respect to mining, entailed that all environmentally related aspects in mining would be regulated through one environmental system under national environmental legislation; and that all environmental provisions in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 would be repealed. The Minister responsible for water and environmental affairs will set the environmental regulatory framework and the norms and standards, and the Minister responsible for mineral resources will implement the provisions of the environmental Acts, as well as the concomitant subordinate legislation as far as it relates to mining activities.
The Minister of Mineral Resources will issue environmental authorisations for mining activities in terms of the principal National Environmental Management Act of 1998, and the Minister of Environmental Affairs will be the appeal authority for these authorisations.
The agreement also provides for fixed timeframes for the consideration and issuing of the authorisations and licences in their respective pieces of legislation. It also provides for the alignment and synchronisation of the respective processes and timeframes of their respective regulatory frameworks.
In a nutshell, what that means is that from now on only environmental laws will apply to all environmental issues within mining areas, but the decision to issue the licences and authorisations in terms of those environmental laws will be vested in the Minister of Mineral Resources. However, if anyone is unhappy with the decision that the Minister makes, they will be able to appeal to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs. To make this work, all the many regulatory processes in the three departments have been interwoven and created so that they run sequentially and to make sure that they are surrounded by timeframes and by processes being followed sequentially.
The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs and the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources have been engaged, since last year, in a series of joint meetings to translate the aforementioned principles underpinning this ministerial agreement into amendments of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act, the National Environmental Management Laws Third Amendment Bill and the Water Amendment Bill.
The alignment of the timeframes and processes will be contained in their respective regulations and will be accordingly amended after these three amending Bills have been operationalised.
Hon Speaker, I will now deal with a few of the specific amendments to the National Environmental Management Act of 1998 contained in the National Environmental Management Laws Third Amendment Bill. Firstly, to ensure regulatory certainty for the industry and the integrity of intragovernmental agreements, the Bill makes provision for the permanence of this co-operative governance agreement, agreed to by the three departments, by requiring the Ministers responsible for water affairs, environmental affairs or mineral resources to concur and present to Parliament, before they introduce any proposed amendments to legislation or regulation that affects the integrity of the one environmental system agreement and any intention to do so.
Secondly, the Bill introduces certain good-governance safeguards, one of which is that if a decision on an application for an environmental authorisation is not made within the timeframes applicable to that process, the applicant may apply to the Minister responsible for environmental affairs to facilitate the process of taking the decision by the Minister of Mineral Resources or where appropriate, and certain procedures have been exhausted to take that decision.
Thirdly, the Minister of Mineral Resources has been empowered to appoint environmental mineral resources inspectors, who have the same powers as the environmental management inspectors - the so-called "Green Scorpions" - to be able to enforce the provisions of the Act and the regulations in mining areas. Furthermore, the Director-General of the Department of Mineral Resources has been given the powers to issue directives in terms of section 28 of the National Environmental Management Act, when it applies to mining activities.
Fourthly, in order to ensure that the agreed time periods are complied with, the Bill restricts the extension of time periods or the condonation of a failure to comply with the time periods in the Act.
Fifthly, the provisions regulating environmental damages have been strengthened. The Bill requires that the Environmental Management Programme must be submitted before deciding on an application for an environmental authorisation; this has not always been the case.
Lastly, the financial provisions for the remediation of environmental damage have also been strengthened. Before the environmental authorisation is issued, the competent authority must ensure that the applicant complied with the prescribed financial provisions for the rehabilitation, closure and ongoing post decommissioning management of negative environmental impacts of mines.
The National Environmental Management Laws Third Amendment Bill also amends the National Environmental Management: Waste Act of 2008, to now include residue stockpiles and residue deposits emanating from any mining activity within the scope of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act of 2008.
The Minister of Mineral Resources is also recognised as the licensing authority where a waste management activity is related to a mining authority and to residue deposits and stockpiles. The Minister responsible for environmental affairs has been given the power to make regulations related to the management and control of residue stockpiles and residue deposits from mining activities.
The main amendment to the National Environmental Management Act of 2008, contained in the National Environmental Management Laws Third Amendment Bill, is to prevent it from being implemented after the coming into effect of the amending Bill. It also provides for transitional arrangements in relation to appeals and decisions made prior to the coming into effect of the Third Amendment Bill.
The Department of Water Affairs joined this process at a later stage, when its water policy review framework and review of the National Water Act of 1998 were undergoing extensive public consultations.
The portfolio committee, while considering the Third Amendment Bill and the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Bill, realised that it was imperative to effect certain technical amendments to the National Water Act. This was in order to achieve the goal of an integrated regulatory framework for water, mining and the environment, by specifically providing for the alignment of the timeframes for the processing of the respective authorisations and licences within 300 days and for the appeals to be adjudicated within 90 days.
The need was also identified for an amendment to make provision for an internal appeal process to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, rather than the current appeal process being administered under the Water Tribunal.
This will ensure that all appeals will be finalised within 90 days after receipt of an appeal. The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and the Minister of Mineral Resources, as well as their respective departments, were consulted on this approach.
Due to time constraints it was decided to introduce a committee Bill to deal with these two aspects. All the steps were then accordingly complied with to introduce this committee Bill.
In conclusion, once these two Bills being processed today and the amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Bill - which are still to be adopted - are put into operation, mining authorisations, water use licences and environmental authorisation processes will have to be completed in much shorter, allocated, synchronised and integrated timeframes. These then will be binding on government, interested and affected parties and the applicant. It will allow processes in the three departments to run in parallel, and decisions can be issued simultaneously.
Another major benefit will be the promotion of compliance through better co- ordination of the licensing systems. All the Acts will now provide for an internal appeal procedure and the appeal timeframes between the Acts are aligned and run in parallel.
The strict appeal timeframes apply to appellants submitting appeals and the authority considering appeals, and limit condonation applications. The appeal process must be finalised prior to the mining right being made effective and construction commencing.
The current Bills will ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place to harmonise licensing and authorisation of the environmental function in mining, while ensuring that the environment is protected, and will bring regulatory certainty and predictability to the mining industry, which thus far has been lacking to some extent.
The Bill will bring regulatory certainty, not only in terms of its provisions, but also in terms of when it will be implemented. Three months from the date of publication in the Gazette by the President, the Act will come into force, at last ending the state of flux which the departments and industries were in since the promulgation of the 2008 Acts, which were not fully operationalised until recently.
I therefore urge the House to support the adoption of the National Environmental Management Laws Third Amendment Bill and the National Water Amendment Bill.
Lastly, let me turn to a few people I want to thank. May I first thank the two Ministers, Minister Molewa and Minister Shabangu, for the excellent work they have done. It has taken a very long time and it's under these two Ministers that a lot of work has culminated into the agreement that exists now.
Everyone may not be happy with the agreement, but I think what it does do is it creates the possibility for a rational basis on which to deal with this issue without excluding either of the departments.
So the functions are now interwoven and the processes are interwoven. Therefore we need all three departments to work together. We trust that in the next while the two Ministers will operationalise them, and we thank them for all their work.
We want to thank the three departments, their respective directors-general and all the staff under them very much. I know we were hard task masters as a committee and sometimes scolded you, maybe unfairly, but take it in the spirit of everything being good.
To the two portfolio committees - my own and the one on Mineral Resources chaired by hon Faith Bikani - it was wonderful working with you. It was like one happy family and one of the things, in particular, which we did, was to go through five regulatory frameworks that will flow from this legislation. This was not an easy task, so we thank everyone for that. I thank the opposition parties for all their support.
Many legal advisers assisted us and I thank all of them. However I do want to single out Adv Karien van der Merwe, who helped us a great deal with the committee Bill and all the processes that had to be complied with. I do trust that I have thanked everyone, but if I haven't, as the clich goes: all protocol observed. Thank you. [Applause.]