Barbara Creecy, minister of forestry, fisheries and environmental affairs, dealt a major blow to mining groups Anglo Operations and Canyon Coal, as well as the department of mineral resources, after rejecting plans for a giant new open-pit mine outside Springs because it is an important agricultural area.
Community and environmental groups appealed against the decision of the department of mineral resources to approve the environmental plan of the new Palmietkuilen coal mine.
Anglo Operations, on behalf of Canyon Coal, applied in 2016 to build the open-pit mine on almost 202 hectares between marshes, pans, maize fields and suburbs.
The mine would have been upstream of Blesbokspruit, one of the largest wetlands in the highveld region, and the Ashton Lake residential area. It would have delivered 200 400 tonnes coal every month for almost 50 years.
The department of mineral resources granted environmental approval for the mine on March 5.
But then the Grootvallei Blesbokspruit Trust, the Asthon Lake community, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa and the farming company Rossouw Pluimvee appealed the decision with Creecy.
In her decision, Creecy said she took into account their concerns as well as that of the department of agriculture, which contended that the area is considered important for farming. Creecy concurred that the area was agriculturally sensitive, adding that it had been farmed for generations.
She said that while mining brings social benefits, those are not more important and larger than agriculture.