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Another environmental authorisation for a coal mine set aside

November 16, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Environmental activists from Earthlife Africa Johannesburg protest outside the Pretoria High Court earlier this year. Picture: James Oatway for CER.
Environmental activists from Earthlife Africa Johannesburg protest outside the Pretoria High Court earlier this year. Picture: James Oatway for CER.

Another proposed coal mine, this time in the Waterberg in Limpopo, has been stopped in its tracks.

Earlier this year, environmental justice group Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Concerned Citizens of Lephalale, assisted by the Centre for Environmental Rights, launched an appeal against the decision of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to grant an environmental authorisation to Groothoek Coal Mining Pty Ltd for the proposed construction of a coal mine in Lephalale, Limpopo.

The proposed mine had local residents in an uproar, as it was planned to be built inside the residential boundaries of the town of Lephalale. The opencast coal mine would have been located a few hundred metres from a block of flats, and from the provincial hospital in Lephalale. Most of the Onverwacht suburb of Lephalale would have fallen inside the blast zone of the mine.

Additionally, the township of Marapong, located near the proposed mining site, is primarily made up of low-cost housing known to have weak foundations. The risk that blasting at the proposed mine would cause the houses in these residential areas to collapse or suffer severe structural damage was of major concern to the groups opposing this mine.

It is also well-known that the Waterberg is a water scarce region, and residents have already been raising concerns regarding the constraints in water availability. Earthlife Africa and local residents argued that the proposed mine would further add to the residents’ water troubles.

Three other separate appeals were submitted against the same DMR environmental authorisation: By Eskom’s Matimba Power Station, by the Lephalale Local Municipality and by Camelot Reserve.

On 11 November 2017, the Minister of Environmental Affairs upheld the four appellants’ appeals. She set the decision to grant the environmental authorisation aside and referred it back to the DMR for reconsideration. In her reasons for the decision on appeal, the Minister stated that the DMR conceded that the decision to grant the mining right to Groothoek Coal Mining Pty Ltd was “premature”, and that the environmental authorisation issued to Groothoek was defective.

“We welcome the DMR’s willingness to admit that a mistake had been made,” says Elana Greyling, a local activist in Lephalale. “We also appreciate the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ commitment to rational decision-making that complies with environmental laws, and the principles of administrative justice.”

END

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg is an NGO which mobilises civil society around environmental issues that affect people.

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) is a non-profit organisation of activist lawyers who work with communities and civil society organisations to protect people from the harmful environmental effects of polluting industries.

Together with groundWork, the CER and ELA form part of the joint Life After Coal / Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle Campaign, which aims to discourage investment in new coal-fired power stations and mines; accelerate the retirement of South Africa’s coal infrastructure; and enable a just transition to renewable energy for the people.

For media queries, please contact Annette Gibbs on agibbs@cer.org.za or 082 467 1295.

Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

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National Environmental Crimes & Incidents Hotline (24 hours): 0800 205 005

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