Coal mine threatens strategic water source area in South Africa | WWF

Coal mine threatens strategic water source area in South Africa

Posted on
07 February 2017
In a worrying development for one of the world's most water-scarce countries, WWF has learnt that South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, approved an application for coal mining to go ahead in the Mabola Protected Environment - less than three years after the area was granted protected status.

Along with four other wetland areas in the northern province of Mpumalanga, the 8,772-hectare Mabola Protected Environment was declared on 22 January 2014. Mabola is in a strategic water source area, generating critical water supplies for agricultural, industrial and human use.

“The Protected Areas Act recognises that there are areas that play such an important role in safeguarding the country’s ecological services that they require safeguarding at all costs," said Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa. “That an incompatible activity such as coal mining has been given the go-ahead is a worrying turn of events that does not bode well for other protected areas."

“Coal mining in strategic water source areas is not only contrary to sound scientific advice, but also to basic common sense. These are areas of high biodiversity which are critical for water generation and future economic growth. WWF will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the best interests of society are pursued," added du Plessis.

WWF-SA has a copy of the letter indicating that Dr Molewa authorised the application in August last year for an Indian company, Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd, to develop an underground mine in the Mabola area. She is a co-signatory with the Minister of Mineral Resources, who signed off on the application in November 2016. In terms of the law, both signatures are required for mining to go ahead.

However, to date there has been no public announcement about the decision.

"We are increasingly aware of the trend of diminishing transparency in decisions relating to mining activities in general. This is fast becoming a significant concern of short-sighted decision-making that has the consequence of short-changing society," said du Plessis.
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