The right perspective

2012-03-31 10:56

The article by Yolandi Groenewald in City Press (March 18 2012), from its title – “Black gold versus blue water” – was sadly peppered with inaccuracies.

The article highlights a disturbing trend in our society to form ourselves into “camps” on various issues to see everything in “black” or “blue”, to borrow from the afore-mentioned article’s headline.

It was disappointing to read a community leader saying “no-one is talking to us”’ when I personally have attended meetings with his community, often in the presence of both local and provincial government representatives.

Every day we hear and read about South Africa’s need to find ways to grow its economy, create jobs, and thus reduce unemployment and poverty.

The Makhado coking coal project will create just over 1 000 direct jobs during the operational phase of the mine.

Approximately 98% of the province’s population are historically disadvantaged South Africans; nearly 40% are young people; illiteracy is about 40%; unemployment is about 30%; per capita income is about half the national average; contribution to national GDP is just 7%.

This is all in a province with undisputed, yet under-developed, mineral wealth.

We also hear and read constantly about how the global mining boom is passing us by as international investors put their money into mining ventures in countries such as Australia, Chile, Canada and recently Mozambique, rather than here.

Even so around 50% of South Africa’s foreign exchange earnings and some 20% of its GDP are derived from our under-performing mining sector.

We have been at work for some years now on preparation for the development of two substantial coal mining projects, Vele and Makhado, in Limpopo. We are committed to following the principles of the International Council of Mining and Minerals and have adopted a sustainability policy in which we undertake to provide for and leave a positive, lasting social, ecological and economic legacy from our business.

In respect of our Vele Project, the Memorandum of Agreement signed between Coal of Africa and the Department of Environment and Sanparks, and the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Save Mapungubwe coalition are examples of a new benchmark being set to ensure that the twin goals of development and conservation are met in the future.

The signing of these memoranda show commitment among the parties with varying interests to find the delicate balance between maximising economic growth through appropriate development and conservation, even enhancement, of key elements of our environment – water, biodiversity and heritage.

In respect of our Makhado Project we continue to struggle to find such commitment for balance.

Some opposition groups motivated by principle and or fear have an objective to stop the Makhado Project through a strategy to impede the participation process provided by law in whatever ways through sowing misinformation to create discord among whomever they can for their own vested interest.

For instance, while Limpopo is a water-constrained province the requirement of water for Makhado mine from the Nzhelele Dam will be an average of 3% over the life of the mine.

The proposed mitigatory measures include repairing the bulk pipeline leaks which will benefit the surrounding communities from the enhanced efficiency of the water reticulation system.

We have made progress in respect of Vele and are committed to making the same kind of progress with Makhado. We will do all we can to encourage the interested and affected parties to consult with us in good faith.

Part of this will be systematically correcting the untruths and motivating at every opportunity for a fair hearing.

» Wallington is CEO of Coal of Africa Limited

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