Activists slam decision to pump water to coal mines

South African environmental groups have challenged the government’s decision to grant permission for a water project which aims to supply developments for its future coal reserves.

Authorising a part of the Mokolo Crocodile (West) Water Augmentation Project, which would pump water to the coal-rich Waterberg region, is unlawful because the development "must be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable," environmental groups Earthlife Africa and groundWork said in an appeal to the Department of Environmental Affairs.

South Africa relies on coal for more than 90% of its power generation. The Waterberg area has been considered the country’s future supply of supply. It’s also the planned location of both proposed power station projects and Exxaro mines.

Cheap power

The groups represented by attorneys at the Centre for Environmental Rights argue that damage to human health and the environment that’s caused by the projects would exceed the benefits of cheap power.

"A water transfer scheme that is intended purely to enable a number of unnecessary, not to mention harmful, coal developments, is a reckless use of our limited water,” Makoma Lekalakala, director of Earthlife Africa, said in a statement.

A spokesman for South Africa’s Environment Department didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Earthlife has slowed the development of private coal stations through earlier challenges to projects which have received government approval. The water project’s environmental authorisation has been suspended until the fate of the appeal has been decided by the minister of environmental affairs, according to the environmental groups.

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