06 December 2019

Surface mining industry association ASPASA
is lobbying government to urgently crack down on ill-conceived borrow pits that
are jeopardising legitimate quarries and threatening the livelihoods of
thousands of workers in the industry.

“Once a business shuts down and closes
its doors it is too late. We cannot simply stand by while licensed, legally
compliant and sustainable quarries are being put out of business by borrow pits
that are opened to supply certain large-scale projects more cheaply. These do
not employ permanent workers, do not invest heavily in capital equipment and
have the potential to scar the environment in ways that can render tracts of
land unusable for future generations.

“While some in the construction
industry, and even some engineering bodies, have called for easy-access to
“cheap” aggregates, such an idea is ill-conceived and will lead to catastrophe
in the quarrying industry with the consequence of large-scale building material
shortages and a rapid downward spiral in material quality.

Completely unsustainable

“Borrow pits like these are only
established for large and lucrative contracts and neglect smaller-scale and
more specialised requirements. Thus major contracts will be eroded from formal
quarries, many of whom are only able to survive and recapitalise as a result of
this type of cash injection that occurs from time-to-time.

“The knock-on effect is that
hard-to-reach aggregates will be neglected, specialised crushing and screening
equipment will not be procured and as a result aggregates for high-strength
concrete and specialised construction will become unavailable. These cannot
then be imported, as the cost of transport will make it completely unaffordable,”
says Nico Pienaar, director of ASPASA.

He says the association is currently
engaging the Department of Minerals and Energy, the South African National
Roads Agency Limited, the Department of Environmental Affairs and other
stakeholders to discuss the ramifications of these “short-term remedies” to
cost saving initiatives. We have already seen the collapse of the large-scale
construction sector, mass exodus of skills required to deliver infrastructure
and the emergence of mafia-style syndicates taking advantage of loopholes in construction
industry procurement practices.

Fighting back

“We don’t want the same to happen in our
industry and will fight tooth-and-nail to prevent ill-thought out policies from
ruining our industry and putting thousands of gainfully employed workers out of

“We rather call for engagement with all
stakeholders, because with proper planning our industry is able to deliver whatever
is required to build South Africa sustainably and to continue to thrive and
employ ever-growing numbers of workers for generations to come. Surely, that is
a better solution!” Pienaar concludes.

Defining a borrow pit

A borrow pit is a land use involving the
excavation or digging of material for use as fill at another site and incudes
the pit area, stockpiles, haul roads, entrance roads, scales, crusher, and all
related facilities. They are subject to:

  • Approval
    by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy
  • A
    permit to operate
  • Compliance
    with national and provincial legislation
  • Compliance
    with local bylaws
  • Compliance
    with water usage requirements
  • Compliance
    with environmental requirements
  • Compliance
    with Minerals Charter
  • Compliance
    with MHSA act
  • Compliance
    with labour legislation
  • Must
    have a pre- and post-operational usage and rehabilitation plan
  • Other

Contact: Nico Pienaar, Tel: (011) 791
3327, Email: [email protected], Web:

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