On 4 February 2016 a story was published in the DFA covering a decision by the Sol Plaatje City Council to re-open Bultfontein Road to light trafic
4 Feb 2016 Diamond Fields Advertiser
Road to be re-opened
BULTFONTEIN Road will be rehabilitated and re-opened for all light traffic.
This decision was taken by the Sol Plaatje City Council at a meeting yesterday, where it was also agreed that all adjacent roads and intersections to Bultfontein road must be upgraded to accommodate the volumes, weight and turning radii of heavy vehicles.
Despite the unanimous decision, however, it is not certain when the road will be re-opened and how long the rehabilitation will take, or the costs involved.
Fingers have, however, been pointed at De Beers to cover the costs of both stabilising the Big Hole, as well as rehabilitating not only Bultfontein Road but all other roads that have been damaged as a result of excessive traffic volumes and loads.
Lashing out at De Beers, the council also agreed that recommendations should be made to the Minister of Minerals and Resources to invoke Section 45 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resource Development Act (MPRDA) in respect of the rehabilitation of the road.
It was pointed out in a report drawn up by city engineer Boy Dhluwayo that De Beers had never received a mine closure certificate and therefore was still responsible for rehabilitation.
“It has been noted that mining companies are reluctant to apply for a formal closure because they consider the obligations on closure more onerous than what is colloquially referred to as ‘care and maintenance’, which has detrimental consequences for environmental degradation, as seen with the Big Hole and its consequential effects.”
It was also agreed at the meeting that the Sol Plaatje Municipality will commission a comprehensive study on the possibility of stabilising the hole as a permanent long term solution and the costs involved.
The Department of Mineral Resources will be consulted for advice on the legal responsibilities of a mine licence holder and the issues pertaining to the rehabilitation costs of Bultfontein Road.
Talks with Sanral regarding the bypass road will also be resuscitated.
In introducing the item at yesterday’s city council meeting, Executive Mayor David Molusi pointed out that while De Beers had warned of the danger of the mine caving in and the instability of the hole, it had left the decision on whether the road should be re-opened in the hands of the city council.
He added that although the mining company was invited to attend a recent meeting, it had failed to send a representative.
The Speaker, Octavious Matika, stated that this was evidence of De Beers’ disrespect for the council and the community of Kimberley.
“When they do attend meetings, they send low-ranking officials who are not authorised to make decisions. De Beers made a lot of money in Kimberley and now they are running away. Before their final exit, they must rehabilitate the road.”
According to the report by Dhluwayo, opening the road will alleviate traffic delays along the current internal CBD routes. It will also prevent pavement structures from further deterioration due to heavy vehicles on the city’s roads, it will improve the traffic flow in the CBD and will revitalise business activities along the road.
“The reports from consultants appointed by De Beers as well as geoscience consultants are silent on whether the road should remain closed or be opened,” Dhluwayo stated.
He added that it was evident from the studies that the issue of stabilising the Big Hole to restrict further regression had never been considered, especially on the east side along Bultfontein Road.
“It is a considered view of the Sol Plaatje Municipality that the stabilisation of the Big Hole should be explored honestly and thoroughly and the cost of doing that be determined. We believe it is prudent to know how much it will cost because that will come with a somewhat permanent solution and not just dismiss it because it is assumed to be costly.”
According to the report, the decision of council to close the road was based on information received from De Beers.
“The mining laws never anticipated that the operator would choose the cheapest and most convenient rehabilitation route. The stabilisation of the road should be an essential component of rehabilitation, which should be done in conjunction with all other activities and we therefore call on the Department of Minerals and Resources to intervene.”
He added further that financial costs should be carried by the mining licence holder, including the costs of any engineering solution to prevent the Big Hole from any further subsurface slippage, as well as the costs of rehabilitating and reopening Bultfontein Road, as well as the rehabilitation of other roads and intersections that have been damaged due to the excessive traffic volumes.