Anglo eyes sacred land

2011-02-05 20:27

A?subsidiary of mining giant Anglo American is considering mining coal near the environmentally sensitive Mapungubwe world heritage site in Limpopo.

Anglo American Thermal Coal (AATC) has already started consulting stakeholders behind the scenes about the proposed project.

The plan comes hot on the heels of the government’s controversial decision last February to grant Australian company, Coal of Africa (CoAL), permission to prospect coal at the Vele mine, just outside the border town of Musina.

Conservation bodies have since challenged that decision out of concern that any mining activity at Vele, on the eastern boundaries of Mapungubwe, might increase pollution in the area and damage the heritage site.

City Press can reveal that Anglo has appointed global consultancy group Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to develop a stakeholder management strategy for the company.

Well-placed sources say ERM’s consultants, Mariam January and Kerryn Mc­Kune Desai, started discussions with stakeholders this week.

Anglo’s proposals are the latest example of growing conflict over sensitive ­environmental areas which Parliament seeks to address through amending ­legislation.

Currently, the department of mineral resources has the right to grant prospecting or mining rights, while the department of water and environmental affairs has the responsibility to enforce environmental laws.

But loopholes in the Act have seen the departments occasionally at loggerheads, as was the case at Vele last September when water affairs ordered CoAL to halt operations after it apparently flouted environmental laws.

The order came just six months after mineral resources awarded the company new order mining rights.

The Mapungubwe Action Group is currently challenging the awarding of mining rights to CoAL in court.

Situated on the southern banks of the Limpopo River, Mapungubwe is significant because of the graves with gold and iron artefacts, pottery and glass bands that were discovered in 1933.

Archaeologists believe its iron age sites were once the capitals of mighty African kings.

Yolan Friedmann, chief executive of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, confirmed on Thursday that they had met ERM representatives to discuss Anglo’s mining ­proposals.

Friedmann said although she was “sure they (Anglo American) have the intention to mine, but have not confirmed it yet”, the trust would only be ble to give detailed comment once it had seen Anglo’s plans on paper.

January and McKune Desai confirmed they were helping Anglo with stakeholder management through “back-to-back” meetings.

Anglo American spokesperson Pranill Ramchander confirmed the mining giant was conducting initial exploration work within the two areas where it had been granted prospecting rights areas in the far north, about 70km west of Musina.

“The object of the current phase of exploratory drilling is to produce sufficient geological information that could be utilised in a conceptual study for a possible future underground mine.

“Should this initial study reveal encouraging results, a decision would be made to proceed through to the next stages of pre-feasibility and feasibility study,” said Ramchander.

He stressed that expropriation was being carried out strictly in accordance with the requirements as set out in legislation and expropriation standards.

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