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NGO says inadequate financial reporting standards make it difficult to establish if mining companies are repairing their environmental damage

Author: John Yeld, Ground Up (So. Africa), Published on: 25 June 2018

"Are mining companies repairing the damage they cause?"

It’s currently virtually impossible to determine whether South African mining companies are fulfilling their legal obligations to repair and rehabilitate environmental damage that they cause. As a result, shareholders, taxpayers and affected communities are unable to hold these mining companies and the official regulators accountable. That is one of the main conclusions made by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) in its latest report, Full Disclosure: The truth about mining rehabilitation in South Africa, released on 20 June...

Because mining usually causes damage to the environment, it’s a legal requirement for mining companies, before they start mining, to prepare detailed studies setting out the damage that the work will cause and how they will rehabilitate it, the CER explained in a media statement about the report. The companies are then required to determine the costs of rehabilitation and to set ring-fence sufficient funds to do the work. If a company fails to rehabilitate, the state is supposed to be able to access the fund and use it to do the rehabilitation itself. However, neither the law nor the accounting standards governing company disclosures ensure the necessary transparency and accountability about financial provision for environmental rehabilitation, the report finds.

“The information disclosed by mining companies about the costs of rehabilitation of the environmental damage that they cause and about the money that they are obliged to set aside to fix it, is inconsistent, unclear, in some cases unreliable,” CER attorney Christine Reddell explains. “This means that it’s impossible to check whether the estimated costs of rehabilitation given by mining companies are accurate … And whether rehabilitation is actually being carried out. In other words, it’s impossible for shareholders or taxpayers to hold companies or regulators to account.”

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