7.15 New legislation to impact on air quality management
Air quality management, which is currently governed by the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act of 1965, is to fall under the new Air Quality Bill, when it is promulgated in 2005.
Directed at a number of industries, including mining, the new Bill aims to establish a more effective regulatory regime, including the establishment of national norms and standards; a framework for air quality management planning and reporting; and regulatory instruments for the control of air pollution, compliance and enforcement. The Bill was arrived at through a process of consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, of which the Department of Minerals and Energy was one.
Kobus Dekker - occupational, environmental, safety and health manager of AngloGold Ashanti's South African region - describes air quality management at the company as the elimination or control of "all pollutants generated from the metallurgical plants (the main potential source of pollutants), tailings storage facilities and ore piles, as well as any other sources, for example, refrigeration plants, vehicles and ventilation fans". The Bill's priority areas are specifically the ambient concentration of ozone, nitrogen oxide (NO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), lead, and amount and size of particulate matter (PM10) and total suspended solids (TSS).
Since the Bill also aims to meet international standards, it is expected to either contain or refer to stringent limits on all pollutants. To prepare for compliance, AngloGold Ashanti formed an Air Quality Management Task Team at the beginning of 2004. Kobus, as project coordinator, heads a six-member team of experts and advisors, who are responsible for drawing up an Air Quality Management Plan and identifying areas of responsibility to ensure correct implementation.
A group of consultants were first engaged to perform an Air Quality Impact Assessment, as part of a Baseline Risk Assessment, to identify the sources and extent of pollution in order to establish the necessary remediation equipment. The company's existing scheduled processes and controls to comply with current legislation were evaluated to determine discrepancies with possible new legal requirements. As a result, action plans have been developed to improve areas where compliance may be problematic. Any existing processes previously not recognised as 'scheduled' processes were also identified, and plans made to have these either registered under the old legislation or licensed under the new legislation. At the same time, any new processes which may have to be implemented after promulgation of the Act, have been identified.
Major concerns arising from the assessment are dust levels, which pose a potential health risk to fauna, flora and humans; and SO2 emissions from the metallurgical acid plant stacks. In 2004 AngloGold Ashanti focused on monitoring and reducing dust levels and has purchased two weather stations which measure temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction; dust fall-out buckets for monthly monitoring at West Wits and Vaal River; and two PM10 dust monitors to monitor human inhalation (particles smaller than 10 microns are known to pose a health risk). In 2005, the focus is on the monitoring and reduction of SO2 and sulphur trioxide (SO3) emissions.
The Task Team is currently working on the Air Quality Management Plan which comprises additional planning controls; installation of instruments for continuous monitoring of emissions; formulating stack monitoring frequencies; calibrating the atmospheric dispersion modelling system; and establishing an emissions inventory, which will be updated monthly.
Once approved by management, AngloGold Ashanti's Air Quality Management Plan will be forwarded to each of the South African operations for incorporation into their mine-specific Environmental Management Implementation Plan. Regulatory bodies for the Air Quality Bill will be the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and municipalities, the latter of which are to employ emission control officers. The licensing authority will issue an 'atmospheric emission licence' (previously called a registration certificate), which will be inspected at regular intervals. Penalties will be imposed for non-compliance in terms of the Bill.