Mine could destroy Mapungubwe

2010-05-12 13:46

Pretoria - Giant baobabs and several hectares of indigenous forest near Mapungubwe, a world heritage site, have been flattened by a mining company, without having permission to do so.

Large-scale destruction is currently being caused by Coal of Africa (CoAl) on the bank of the Limpopo River, just a kilometre or two from Mapungubwe, without the company having obtained the necessary water licence or any other kind of environmental approval.

CoAl has only mining rights (for coal) which were granted by the Department of Mining, but without a water licence or other environmental approval, no mining activities can be allowed.

CoAl has already cleared many hectares of indigenous forest in order to start building its controversial Vele coal mine on the bank of the Limpopo River, about 5km east of Mapungubwe

Legal action against mine

Meanwhile eight bodies, including non-governmental organisations and conservation groups, have launched legal action because they fear the mine will destroy Mapungubwe ecologically, archaeologically, as well as culturally.

Their legal documents also state that if CoAl's mine is approved here, it would be the start of the industrialisation of the Limpopo River Valley.

Anglo Coal has already started prospecting for coal on farms bordering Mapungubwe.

A consortium of business people are also busy with plans to build a power station, Mulilo, next to the Vele coal mine.

It seems the Department of Environmental Affairs did not authorise the building of a road to the site where the mine will be built, but CoAl nonetheless continued construction.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has, over the past two weeks, failed to answer questions regarding CoAl's planned Vele coal mine

Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for Buyelwa Sonjica, minister of water and environmental affairs, said about ten days ago the department doesn't approve of CoAl's activities, since it threatens the conservation of Mapungubwe.

When asked about the planned meeting on mining in sensitive areas between Sonjica and her equivalent in the Department of Mining, Susan Shabangu, Ratau said Sonjica is "struggling" to make time in her "busy schedule" to speak to Shabangu about her disapproval of CoAl's plans and alleged transgressions of all environmental laws.

'Unconditional approval

Meanwhile, CoAl responded to enquiries through its consultation company, Brunswick, saying on March 12 the Department of Mining gave CoAl "unconditional" approval to start building its Vele coal mine.

Therefore, CoAl does not believe it is acting illegally. The company is doing the preparation work while waiting for the approval of the water licence, CoAl said in a statement on Tuesday.

A source says conflicting national interests with international implications are now of concern.

Mapungubwe is not only a world heritage site, but also a trans-frontier park which involves Zimbabwe and Botswana, and as such, international agreements now hang in the balance.

Jeremy Michaels, spokesperson for the Department of Mining, did not respond after repeated attempts to contact him.