Bo-Kaap refinery approved

Bo-Kaap residents have been left astounded after a gold refinery in the area was given an emissions licence by the provincial government.

The residents had vehemently opposed the application and will be appealing the decision (“Bo-Kaap residents rise up”, Atlantic Sun, August 18).

The application was made by Lueven Metals earlier this year and interested parties have been given 20 days to appeal.

Osman Shaboodien, chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, criticised the department’s timing of the decision, saying that it gives them very little time to gather the community together.

“We don’t have a choice but to appeal and we are going to use every avenue available to us, even if that means going to court. We find the timing very unfair. They have had the application for six months but have approved it at a time when people are preparing for end of year festivities.

Mr Shaboodien said the community’s main concerns with the emissions licence was health implications.

He said St Paul’s Primary School was just a stone’s throw away from the refinery. “This is going to poison our kids, this going to poison us. I think that is the biggest fear. It feels that nobody is concerned.”

Mr Shaboodien said the civic association was meeting with its legal team this week and expect the appeal to be lodged early in December.

Another Bo-Kaap resident, Sumayya Johaar, was also dismayed by the decision. “I am astounded that they would approve this because it wouldn’t happen in any other area.”

She too was concerned about the health implications of a refinery operating in the historic neighbourhood. “The community needs to get together and go to extreme measures to stop this. The decision is alarming,” said Ms Johaar.

Robyne Conway, of the Brave Foundation, said they were also shocked and were planning to appeal. The Brave Foundation, located meters away from the refinery, offers comprehensive recovery support for people who have suffered severe physical trauma.

She said it was wrong that the building of the factory was approved before an emissions licence had been granted. “Can you imagine this happening in a suburb like Camps Bay or anywhere else where a licence like this was granted a few blocks from a primary school. The City doesn’t have norms and standards when it comes to monitoring about these kinds of toxic emissions.”

In an extract from the letter sent to residents, the Western Cape Environmental Affairs and Development Planning department stated: “The primary business activities of Lueven Metals are trading and refining of precious metals, predominantly gold. Lueven Metals obtained its refining licence allowing it to trade in precious metals in 2013. Currently the proposed refining element of the Lueven Metals process is not operational. The primary objective of the NEMA EIA (National Environmental Management Act Environmental Impact Assessment) application was to obtain an Environmental Authorization for Lueven Metals to commence with the proposed gold refining activity, which requires an Atmospheric Emission Licence (AEL) in terms of Section 21 of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act 2004 (Act No. 39 of 2004). Applicant and Location Lueven Metals (Pty) Ltd, 170 Buitengracht Road, City Centre, Cape Town.”

Larry Eichstadt, Environmental Consultant of Resource Management Sevices (RMS) on behalf of Lueven Metals, said: “The Air Quality Assessment completed confirmed that the impact of the proposed gold refinery would be acceptable and the facility would be compliant with the required regulations and standards. The registered stakeholders are entitled to submit an appeal in terms of the legal process. RMS as the independent Environmental Assessment Practitioners will not be engaging with the public.”

He added that the next step was for the City of Cape Town to consider the issuing of the Atmospheric Emissions Licence (AEL) as this licence is only issued after the Environmental Authorisation has been granted. “Should the AEL be issued the project plans thereafter would be based on the decisions to be taken by the Authorisation and Licence Holder Lueven Metals.”

Rudolf van Jaarsveldt, head of communication at the Western Cape Government Environmental Affairs and Development Planning department, said: “The Directorate notse the health concerns raised by some of the interested and affected parties in the EIA process. However, the Directorate granted the environmental authorisation (EA) as the Atmospheric Impact Study found that the emissions from the proposed facility will not exceed the required National Ambient Air Quality Standards or health screening criteria at the closest receptor.”

He added that the Department’s Appeal Unit would process any appeal.

He said the directorate took into consideration the findings of the specialist report conducted as part of the assessment, the mitigation measures proposed by the EAP and the specialist (Atmospheric Impact Study), the requirements of the NEMA EIA Regulations and the NEMA principles, the fact that the proposed development is in line with the zoning of the property, the fact that the proposed development will not be out of place as it will occur inside an existing building on a site that is already used for industrial purposes, and the fact that the mitigation measures proposed can mitigate the impacts to acceptable levels.

Mayoral Committee Member for Health Siyabulela Mamkeli said to date, no formal atmospheric emission licence application has been received from the applicant. The specialist air quality study which informs the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process and the atmospheric emission licensing process, considers the impact of the activity on the receiving environment including sensitive receptors; and on ambient air quality.

“The ambient air quality standards set by the National Minister of Environmental Affairs are health based. Once licensed, the operator would also have to demonstrate compliance with the prescribed minimum emission standards on an annual basis.”