The Environmental Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from 10 African countries on topics relating to environmental law, both substantive and procedural. The collection focuses on cases where an environmental interest interacts with governmental or private interests.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-area expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
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This was an appeal against a decision of the High Court to hold the appellants in contempt of an order of the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, issued to the mining companies concerned under s 19(3) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998.
The appellants contended the directives were incapable of implementation because they were so vague. Consequently, the respondent obtained orders from court a quo, compelling the appellant to provide an amount of money as contribution to execute the ministerial order. Following the order, the appellant failed to pay the money. As a result, the appellants applied to have the appellants for contempt.
The main issue for the court’s consideration was whether an order of the court ordering money to be paid could raise a question of contempt. In overruling the decision of court below, the supreme court stated that it was only where performance of an act was ordered – ad factum praestandum – that conviction for contempt of court was permitted as a means of enforcing performance. It held that contempt proceedings were therefore inappropriate in the circumstances. In conclusion, the court stated that an order that a person was in contempt of court, which carries with it criminal sanctions, should be made only where the court order allegedly flouted was clear and capable of enforcement. Accordingly, the appeal was upheld.
The court considered an appeal, concerning a dispute between two companies over the right to mine salt in the Northern Cape.
The high court initially dismissed the appellant’s counter-application in which it sought to review and set aside the Minster's approval of the 1st respondent’s application for a mining permit over the disputed property.
The question on appeal was whether the high court was entitled to refuse to review and set aside the Minister's approval of the 1st respondent’s application without considering whether the 1st respondent had consulted with the appellant, as an 'interested and affected party' as contemplated in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002.
The court found that the answer to the question was dependent on the legal basis that the appellant relied on for its occupancy of the property. As the appellant’s occupation of the property was premised on the validity of a permit, which the high court found to be a forgery and thus invalid, the question arose as to whether the appellant had a right to be consulted even though the permit was invalid.
The court, after careful consideration of the requirements set out in the Act, held that a person that relies on an illegally issued permit to occupy land has no right to be consulted by an applicant for a mining right as contemplated in the Act because they do not qualify as an 'interested and affected party'.
This case concerned a dispute over the applicant’s land which became the subject of a mining permit held by the respondent. The applicants sought an interdict from the High Court to suspend all of the respondent’s mining activities. They contended that these activities would cause environmental harm and have negative effects on their business. The respondents argued that by failing to seek suspension of the permit timeously, the applicants exacerbated difficulties for both parties.
The court considered whether the matter was one of urgency and whether the applicants were entitled to the interdict sought. Although the court agreed with the respondent’s observations regarding the failings of the applicants, it held that both parties had an interest in certainty and therefore, took a liberal approach to consider the matter as urgent, noting that this would not prejudice either party.
The court did not find sufficient merit in the grounds for an interdict. The court held that the applicants needed to establish not only a prima facie right, but to show that they would suffer irreparable harm if the relief was not granted. The applicant, however, failed to demonstrate that irreparable harm would ensue if the interdict was not granted.
Consequently, the court did not grant the temporary interdict.
The court also refused to review the administrative decision to grant the respondent a mining permit. It held that the applicant needed to first exhaust all other possible remedies, which it did not do. Accordingly, the court refused the application for review.
The applicants sought to interdict and restrain the respondent from continuing to refuse access to a parcel of land, based on the respondent refuting an existing and enforceable prospecting right which was held by the applicants.
The court considered whether a prospecting right becomes an enforceable limited real right upon registration in the Mining Titles Office and held, it was universally accepted that mineral rights were real rights. Thus, prospecting rights were limited real rights in respect of the mineral and the land to which such rights related.
The court held that a distinction is drawn between the date the right becomes effective and the date of registration. The right becomes effective from the date of approval and subsequently needs to be registered within 30 days of it becoming effective. Therefore, the prospecting right will become enforceable from the date it is effective. The court found that to interpret the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act to mean that a prospecting right becomes effective but remains unenforceable because it has not been registered, would be impractical.
The court found that the respondent’s refusal was primarily a point of protecting his right as a landowner and to the protecting against being arbitrarily deprived of one’s property. Irrespective of the fact that the applicants renewed their prospecting right, the right remained in force until such time as the renewal had been granted or refused. Thus, the applicants had a valid and existing prospecting right and were entitled to access the land to complete their operations.
The case concerned a dispute between the applicant, a non-profit company involved in the promotion of a wildlife conservancy and the first respondent, a mining business within the area of jurisdiction of the second respondent. The applicant invoked its entitlement in public interest to apply for an interdict restraining the first respondent from making any development on any portion of the concerned properties as defined in s 1 and s 38(3), of the KwaZulu-Natal Planning and Development Act No. 6 of 2008 (KZNPD).
The applicant argued that the first respondent was required to apply for its proposed development but the applicant contended that it had not yet obtained such authorisation. The first respondent contended that it had been granted approval for mining authorisations in March 1998, in terms of the then applicable Minerals Act No. 50 of 199. The first respondent argued that mining authorisations approved and granted under the Minerals Act entailed that no further authorisations were required where a mining right subsisted.
The court pointed out that mining authorisations were subject only to the provisions of the Minerals Act and there was no provision similar to that in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 28 of 2002. The court found that the concerned properties were not inside a municipal area and were never the subject of any zoning controls when mining authorisation was granted. On the basis of this alone, no further authorisations were required under any other legislation. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
The appellant sought leave to appeal the respondent’s refusal to allow access to information concerning the use of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) for generating electricity.
The court determined the limitations of the right to information in s 32 of the constitution and the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000; and whether the respondent was right in relying on the limitations to deny the applicants access to the information.
The court held that the right to information is not absolute since it is limited by the right to privacy as per s 36 of the constitution. The court determined whether the information required by the appellant fell within the exceptions in the act.
The court also noted that this was a technical matter that required expert evidence since experts are better qualified to draw inferences in such matters than the judicial officer. The court observed that only the respondent brought expert evidence.
The court applied s 42(3)(a) of the Information Act that entitles the respondent to refuse a request for access to a record that contains trade secrets. It found that the respondent had proved its case and that the research requested by the appellant was protected from disclosure.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed with costs.
The matter dealt with coal mining operations occurring adjacent to a public park in northern KwaZulu-Natal. The first and second applicants were a registered trust pursuing environmental causes and an association of members of communities affected by open-cast mining in the area respectively. The applicants, in the public interest or alternatively affected parties, sought an interdict to shut the mine down completely for being in contravention of s 24 and s 38 of the South African Constitution. The relief sought was subsequently altered to an application to prevent illegal mining. Of the nine respondents cited, the first respondent, a mining company opposed the grant of any relief against it.
The court considered whether the first respondent complied with various national, provincial and local government legislative instruments. The court noted that the applicants were not entirely sure if the interdict they sought was final or interim. The court concluded that the applicants failed to make out a proper case for the relief as claimed, since they failed to put up convincing evidence to support their contentions that the first respondent was mining unlawfully and without the requisite authorisations. The court found that the applicants had not afforded the concerned authorities the opportunity to fully investigate their complaints before deciding to institute proceedings. The court cited various statutes that created regulatory authorities which were empowered to enforce compliance with the statutes they administered. Accordingly, the application was dismissed with costs.
The matter dealt with an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold an interdict against the applicant to stop the applicant from mining until the respective land in contention was re-zoned to permit mining in terms of provincial legislation. The minister had earlier granted mining permits to the appellant to mine areas zoned as public open spaces in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The appellant contended the act was superior to the provincial legislation and Supreme Court had erred in upholding the High Court interdict against it. The appellant had claimed that mining fell under the exclusive competence of national government and that the proposition that provincial legislation regulating municipal planning applied to it would be tantamount to allowing municipal government to intrude into the terrain of the national sphere.
The Constitutional Court in determining whether to grant leave considered whether the provincial legislation that required rezoning did not apply to land used for mining.
The court, in rejecting the applicant’s argument, held that the provincial law and the national law served different purposes which fall within the competences of the local and the national sphere. Each sphere was exercising power allocated to it by the Constitution and regulated by the relevant legislation.
The court concluded that the interdicts were invalidly issued and held further that in order to bring clarity to the application of competing laws, leave to appeal ought to be granted in order to deal with the constitutional issues raised.