The news that the WPB Colliery had been granted a mining right was greeted with shock by the SEI (Steenkampsberg Environmental Initiative) which is a coalition of FOSAF and major environmental NGO’s. Nearby landowners including the many flyfishing venues in the area were equally appalled.
The SEI was formed in May 2011 to assist the Mpumalanga Tourist & Parks Agency (MTPA) in opposing this and other inappropriate developments in the Dullstroom area otherwise known as the Steenkampsberg. In theory there should be no mining on the Dullstroom plateau area of the Steenkampsberg. This is if one examines the local Emakhazeni Environmental Framework which was gazetted in 2009 and the Mpumalanga Biodiversity Conservation Plan endorsed by the Mpumalanga Cabinet in 2008. The former stresses the importance of tourism, conservation and agriculture while the latter describes much of the area as ‘irreplaceable’ in biodiversity terms.
WPB’s application was strongly opposed by the MPTA and the SEI and they had reason for optimism as they considered the application fatally flawed in many respects. These objections were overruled by the committee of the DMR (Department of Mineral Resources) with the chairperson of the committee allegedly stating that the country needed development and coal, and he was not concerned with frogs and other small things.
The site of the proposed mine (approx. S25° 34’42” E30° 07’08”) is at the head of the Elands River which lower down flows through Machadodorp and Waterval Boven. A stream from a previous old, small and abandoned mine has been decanting toxic water into the Elands for many years and it is feared that this new mine will cause even greater acid mine drainage problems for downstream users. The site is also very close to many important wetlands and not far from the extensive Lakenvlei wetland.
Not only is this development a serious threat to the environmental integrity of the area, the many flyfishing venues and farms nearby but also the large number of sustainable jobs which have been created whereas the life of the mine is not estimated to be no more than 5 years. The SEI is meeting shortly to consider what steps to take next. This could take the form of an internal appeal to the DMR which is usually a very costly undertaking.
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