The Environmental Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from 10 African countries on topics relating to environmental law, both substantive and procedural. The collection focuses on cases where an environmental interest interacts with governmental or private interests.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-area expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
Read also JIFA's Environmental Country Reports for SADC
The court considered an appeal against a judgment of the Gauteng Local Division where the appellants refusal to supply information to the respondent about their industrial activities with possible environmental impacts, was declared invalid and set aside.
Following two requests by the respondent, the appellant refused to give them any information based on a failure to meet the threshold requirements of s 50(1)(a), read with s 53 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000. Further, that their reliance on s 24 of the Constitution was too broad and in conflict with the principle of subsidiarity. I.e. where legislation giving effect to constitutional rights exists, the provisions of the legislation is where the rights should be located.
The court found that the word ‘required’ in s 50(1)(a) of PAIA should be construed as ‘reasonably required’ in the prevailing circumstances for the exercise or protection of the rights by the requestor. Thus, insofar as the environment is concerned, collaborative governance was a virtue.
The court took into consideration the nature of the appellant’s operations and its consequences. The appellant had a reputation for being a major polluter in the areas in which it conducted operations.
The court found that the information was required to make a decision on future actions and could find no error in the court’s reasoning that led it to an order compelling the appellant to provide the requested information and that there is no room for secrecy.
The applicants sought to interdict and restrain the respondent from continuing to refuse access to a parcel of land, based on the respondent refuting an existing and enforceable prospecting right which was held by the applicants.
The court considered whether a prospecting right becomes an enforceable limited real right upon registration in the Mining Titles Office and held, it was universally accepted that mineral rights were real rights. Thus, prospecting rights were limited real rights in respect of the mineral and the land to which such rights related.
The court held that a distinction is drawn between the date the right becomes effective and the date of registration. The right becomes effective from the date of approval and subsequently needs to be registered within 30 days of it becoming effective. Therefore, the prospecting right will become enforceable from the date it is effective. The court found that to interpret the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act to mean that a prospecting right becomes effective but remains unenforceable because it has not been registered, would be impractical.
The court found that the respondent’s refusal was primarily a point of protecting his right as a landowner and to the protecting against being arbitrarily deprived of one’s property. Irrespective of the fact that the applicants renewed their prospecting right, the right remained in force until such time as the renewal had been granted or refused. Thus, the applicants had a valid and existing prospecting right and were entitled to access the land to complete their operations.
The applicant was a holder of a mining right and was conducting open cast mining operations. Due to changes to the applicant’s mine, they submitted an application to have the EMP amended. The 1st respondent directed that the applicant was to submit a revised environmental liability report in order to cover the inherent risk related to the proposed project, thus they need to provide funding to cover a worst-case scenario.
The crux of the issue concerned the powers conferred on the 1st respondent to approve EMP’s and amended EMP’s. The court found that the applicant’s amended EMP would, if implemented successfully, result in the partial backfilling and flooding as part of its mine closure process, thus creating a dam to supply water to the local community and resulting in a practical closure of the mine.
The court found that the conditions imposed were unreasonable and irrational and that the 1st respondent failed to take cognizance of all relevant conditions. In addition, the decision to impose the conditions and require financial provisions as a worst-case scenario, was ultra vires (acting beyond one’s legal power or authority).
The court found that the 1st respondent committed an error of law when making his decision which he was not entitled to make within the powers vested in him.
Review upheld and decision set aside.