Pretoria – Attempting to mitigate all negative impacts of mining coal near the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo, was unrealistic, a nature conservation group said on Wednesday.
The department told journalists in Pretoria on Wednesday, that it could mitigate all negative impacts by moving indigenous vegetation from where roads would be built by Vele colliery, and plant them elsewhere.
EWT CEO Yolan Friedmann, said their opposition to the proposed colliery at Vele was based on detailed scientific studies on the groundwater, biodiversity, heritage, air quality, noise and tourism impacts posed by this mine.
These studies were conducted by a wide range of experts in these fields, said Friedmann.
“It appears that the department of environmental affairs is attempting to sweep aside serious concerns highlighted in scientific studies by attempting to mitigate all negative impacts through conditions in the authorisation,” she said.
“This is neither realistic nor based on sound science.”
The mining site was about 7km from Mapungubwe.
Deputy director general Fundisile Mkhetheli said their decision was based on science and not emotion.
“Studies were done. I won’t say this [construction and mining] will destroy the whole area because science is telling us differently. When we deal with environment, we need to put emotions aside and science upfront,” he said.
Various organisations, including EWT, were against the development at the Vele site.
Friedmann said her organisation has launched interdict proceedings to stop CoAL from carrying on any mining or related operations on the Vele site.
She said they will lodge a notice of intention to appeal the authorisation before the deadline on July 25.
The department initially raised concerns when it first emerged that mining would take place in the area, which outside the Mapungubwe National Park.
The department of mineral affairs gave CoAL a mining licence in March last year, but construction was stopped by the environment department in August after it found several regulations had been transgressed and there had not been sufficient consultation with affected parties.
CoAL subsequently submitted two section rectification applications and paid a R9.25m administrative fine in May.
Criminal charges were laid by the department as a result of the illegal activities by the company, and the matter was currently with the National Prosecuting Authority, said Abader.
The department made an assurance on Wednesday, that monitoring and evaluation would take place at the area between the mine and Mapungubwe National Park.
It confirmed that roads were already built at the site, and further indicated that the company would have to abide by special conditions due to the project’s proximity to the park.
It also emerged on Wednesday that the authorisation given on July 5, was only for nine out of 12 violations.
This means CoAL could not yet proceed with those remaining three activities, including the construction of a pipeline, fuel storage and an airstrip, until a decision was made by the department.
CoAL said construction would be completed within six to nine months. The company planned to produce an initial one million tons of coking coal a year.