To pre­serve SA’s wa­ter re­sources

CityPress - - Business -

jobs to the Wakker­stroom com­mu­nity. “But we all know that most of the jobs at the mine will be for skilled out­siders.”

Atha-Africa lists the Bashu­bile Trust as its BEE part­ner, which has been linked to rel­a­tives of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

While it plans to pro­ceed with min­ing as soon as pos­si­ble, the Cen­tre for En­vi­ron­men­tal Rights, a not-for-profit en­vi­ron­men­tal rights law clinic, is op­pos­ing this.

Melissa Fourie, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the cen­tre, said en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists were pre­par­ing an in­ter­dict to stop the mine, adding that the Mabola case set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent and the fight would be taken to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court if nec­es­sary.

“If we open the door on this, we are open­ing the flood­gates,” she warned.

Fourie called the Mabola case “a calamity” be­cause the facts sup­port­ing a min­ing ban were so strong.

“This is a pro­tected area, gen­er­at­ing wa­ter for our econ­omy. If min­ing is al­lowed here, it will be dif­fi­cult to re­sist fu­ture ap­pli­ca­tions in other sim­i­lar ar­eas. “We know of other ap­pli­ca­tions wait­ing in the wings.” Fourie said al­low­ing min­ing in crit­i­cal wa­ter catch­ment ar­eas was akin to sui­cide for South Africa, es­pe­cially since it was cur­rently in the throes of a wa­ter cri­sis – just 8% of the land area pro­vides 50% of the coun­try’s sur­face wa­ter.

This 8% is made up of 22 wa­ter catch­ment and bio­di­verse ar­eas in five prov­inces.

Th­ese ar­eas con­tain the coun­try’s most crit­i­cal, strate­gic nat­u­ral re­sources. They sup­ply 70% of our ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter, sup­port 60% of the pop­u­la­tion, and un­der­pin 67% of na­tional eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and sup­ply. Mabola is the wa­ter source of three ma­jor rivers: the Tugela, Vaal and Pon­gola.

But Atha-Africa said the mine would cre­ate 500 di­rect jobs and about 2 000 in­di­rectly.

Praveer Tri­pathi, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of Atha-Africa, said the com­pany’s sci­en­tific stud­ies in­di­cated it would be able to mit­i­gate the con­cerns that had alarmed en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.

The depart­ment of min­eral re­sources agreed, but did not re­spond to ques­tions this week.

Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF SA, said: “That an in­com­pat­i­ble ac­tiv­ity such as coal min­ing has been given the go-ahead is a wor­ry­ing turn of events which does not bode well for other pro­tected ar­eas.

“This is ... short-sighted de­ci­sion making that has the con­se­quence of short-chang­ing so­ci­ety. Coal min­ing in strate­gic wa­ter-source ar­eas is not only con­trary to sound sci­en­tific ad­vice, but also to ba­sic com­mon sense.”

Fourie said this sign-off by Molewa was the lat­est in a se­ries of “fee­ble” de­ci­sions by gov­ern­ment.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal rights cen­tre in­sti­tuted ju­di­cial re­view pro­ceed­ings against the grant­ing of th­ese min­ing rights in Septem­ber last year, af­ter Atha-Africa was granted a min­ing right in Septem­ber 2014 and an en­vi­ron­men­tal li­cence by the Mpumalanga gov­ern­ment in June 2016.

Atha-Africa was then granted min­ing li­cence by the min­eral re­sources depart­ment as well as a wa­ter-use li­cence by the depart­ment of wa­ter af­fairs and san­i­ta­tion.

“Even­tu­ally, the de­ci­sion will be set aside be­cause it goes against South Africa’s en­vi­ron­men­tal laws. But lots of money will have to be spent to en­sure that the de­ci­sions are re­versed,” said Fourie.

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