Jewellery refinery in Bo-Kaap raises health concerns

MATTHEW HIRSCH

Bo-Kaap residents are concerned about a jewellery refinery in the area, which they say could have serious health consequences.

The refinery is not far from St Paul’s Primary School on the corner of Buitengracht and Jordaan streets.

In an email response to a query from the Atlantic Sun, Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for health confirmed his department had received an application for atmospheric emissions from Leuven Metals.

Osman Shaboodien, chairman of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, said he was surprised the application had only been submitted after the refinery was built.

“We don’t want a refinery in the area, no matter how much emissions there might be. We are concerned because it is in a residential area and not an industrial one. We are very concerned because it is a health hazard,” said Mr Shaboodien. “We don’t want any kind of emissions in an urban area.”

The area is zoned for commercial use, but Mr Shaboodien argues that this is outdated.

He said only residents close to the refinery, in Buitengracht Street, were sent letters about it in February and were given a month to respond.

Mr Mamkeli noted that the refinery would need to apply to the City’s Air Quality Management Unit for an atmospheric emission licence (AEL).

“The actual operation of the precious and base metal refining activity has not yet commenced, only the installation of the equipment to perform this activity. No refining of metals is currently being undertaken.

“No formal application for an AEL has been submitted as yet. However, we expect the submission of the AEL application will follow in due course,” added Mr Mamkeli.

“There could have been other studies done before it was built. Why put the cart before the horse?” asked Mr Shaboodien.

He said he hoped the City would “seriously consider rejecting the atmospheric emission licence”.

In order for the refinery to get permission to operate in the area, the retrospective authorisation application would first need to be considered by all commenting authorities.

Thereafter, an environmental authorisation would have to be considered and issued by the provincial government.

If a completed provisional atmospheric emission licence application had been submitted, the City would consider the application and issue the licence within the legal timeframes, said Mr Mamkeli.

Asked whether the City shared some of the residents’ concerns, he said: “It is premature to comment on this aspect until such time as we have reviewed the impact assessment documentation and necessary specialist studies.”

When the Atlantic Sun phoned Leuven Metals, they referred us to Resource Management Services, the independent environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) for the Leuven Metals environmental authorisation application.

RMS said they had no say as to when operations could start. Larry Eichstadt, from RMS, said: “The project can only commence once all legal approvals are in place. The next phase of the EIA (environmental impact assessment) process will include an air-quality screening assessment, which will provide the required factual and scientific information based on which responses can be formulated.”