(PRESS RELEASE) -- Lawyers for Human Rights welcomes the Constitutional Court’s decision upholding the right of some 6,000 people of the Blyvooruitzicht Mining Village, a distressed mining community located west of Johannesburg, to continue receiving piped water.

The Constitutional Court dismissed an appeal, brought by Rand Water, against an order of the Pretoria High Court preventing disconnection of the piped water supply to the Village. That order also set out requirements for engagement with the Blyvooruitzicht Mine Village community by relevant stakeholders, including the Merafong Municipality and Rand Water.

“We are ecstatic,” said community resident, Pule Molefe.  “Access to water is fundamental in our lives.  As a human being, you cannot live without water, and the Constitutional Court has restored our hope and our sense of dignity.”

This order brings to an end the multi-year struggle by the community, represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, to retain access to water after the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine initiated liquidation proceedings in 2013.  The company’s sudden departure from the site meant that many of its environmental and socio-economic closure obligations went unfulfilled. As a result, the community’s access to basic services – previously provided by the Mine – was threatened.

“This outcome represents an important step in recognizing the right of mine-hosting communities to survival, even after the closure of major mining operations in their area,” said Michael Clements, head of LHR’s Environmental Rights Programme.  “We will work to ensure that this creates the impetus for local government, and other stakeholders, to undertake the urgent efforts necessary to secure the future of this community.”   

This case also reflects a broader, more systemic problem regarding the sustainability of mine hosting communities in the aftermath of mine closure.  Given the proliferation of mines reaching the end of their economic lives today in South Africa, the experience of the Blyvooruitzicht residents must serve as a warning to government and industry of the importance of planning for proper mine closure, from a socio economic and environmental perspective.

For further details on the case, please contact:
Michael Clements, Environmental Rights Programme manager on 011 339 1960 
Carol Mohlala, Media and Communications Manager on 079 238 9826