Johannesburg – Eskom joined a committee to help put pressure on mines operating in contravention of the National Water Act, the water and sanitation department said on Friday.

A total of 104 mines are operating in contravention of the National Water Act and it said that “this contravention relates to those mines already operational, yet without the necessary water use authorisation”.

This was the total as of July 25.

A committee, comprising representatives from the department and Eskom, was set up to help the parastatal stop sourcing coal from mines that did not have a licence, the department said.

“Through this effort, Eskom does not sign any new contracts with such mines, while in the case of those that already have contracts, an effort to prioritise their licensing processes and ensure compliance to regulations is then followed.”

The department said it also worked closely with the departments of mineral resources and environmental affairs and inspections were conducted from time to time.

License backlog

The department said that in 2010 the water-use licensing backlog stood at 125. The Letsema Project was then set up to reduce the backlogs and in 2013 the number dropped to 39.

“The department of water and sanitation has through its compliance, monitoring and enforcement process discovered more operations that are in contravention of the water-use licensing regulations, raising the number to 104,” it said in a statement.

In some cases enforcement processes were already under way, with notices and directives being issued.

So far 81 investigations had been completed and 23 were still under way, it said.

“Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has given strict instructions to the water-use licence programme to ensure that the issue of backlogs is attended to urgently.

“She has set up a team that she has directed to work down these applications by the end of October 2014,” the department said.