Plans to mine coal in South African protected area trigger conservation battle

first_imgFEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. In 2016, Indian company Atha-Africa Ventures was given permission to mine coal within the Mabola Protected EnvironmentThe deal required signatures from South Africa’s mineral resources and environmental affairs ministers. News that both officials had granted their approval was only revealed last month after public information requests by activists.Mabola is classified as a Strategic Water Source Area, and conservationists fear underground mining there could pollute or dry up vital fresh water. A South African court ruling this month put the brakes on the approval of a coal station in the northern Limpopo province, marking a victory for environmental justice organization Earthlife Africa, who argued that the coal station had not undergone the required climate change impact assessments.It was South Africa’s first climate change court case and marked a victory for environmental advocacy groups in the country. However, it does not overshadow another anti-coal battle the country’s activists are currently engaged in.In 2016, officials signed off on plans to begin mining coal in the Mabola Protected Area, a critical water catchment area in Mpumalanga province in eastern South Africa.Coal mine in the Arbor community outside Delmas in Mpumalanga. South Africa is a leading coal exporter. Photo by James Oatway for CER.Public kept in the darkTwo signatures were required in order for mining to proceed inside the protected area: Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, who gave consent in August 2016, and Minister of Mineral Resources Mozebenzi Joseph Zwane who signed in November 2016. These signatures authorize Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary of the India-based Atha Group, to begin developing an underground mine in the Mabola area.Several trustees of Atha-Africa’s local partner Bashubile Trust are relatives or associates of President Jacob Zuma, triggering concern that this familial tie has smoothed over the ethical and legal creases caused by this mining application.Official approval of the project was not announced publicly; instead, news that both ministers had given consent came to light in February, after environmental coalitions made a formal request under South Africa’s Promotion of Access to Information Act.Environmental advocacy groups, including the WWF, released statements expressing their “deep concern” upon learning the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) signed off on the mine. This consent was granted less than three years after MPE was declared a national protected area, leaving the WWF describing the DEA’s decisions as “puzzling.”A blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) chick, South Africa’s emblematic bird. Endemic to southern Africa, the species is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and has nesting sites in the Mabola Protected Area. Photo by South African Tourism/Flickr CC-BY-2.0Mabola’s vital role in the country’s water supplyThe Mabola protected area spans 8,772 hectares (21,676 acres). The area is of importance for the region’s farmers and industries, but also for environmental protection and tourism. Its wetlands contain an abundance of bird and animal species as well as vital water sources that could be put at risk if the mining goes ahead.It is the source of three of South Africa’s major rivers (Vaal, the Pongola and the Tugela), and has been classified as a Strategic Water Source Area, part of the 8 percent of South Africa’s land that provides more than half of the country’s fresh water. Mabola is also a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area and an Aquatic Critical Biodiversity Area.Atha-Africa intends to mine 2.26 million tonnes of coal per year. This mine, warn activists and researchers, could dry up the water both above and beneath the wider wetland region. Acid mine drainage is also a concern, potentially threatening the health of the community as well as their farming livelihoods.A coalition of activists, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), has fought against the mine since 2008. Eight other core advocacy groups are involved, including Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and BirdLife South Africa.Despite the protests of this coalition, some locals believe the mine will bring much-needed employment. Atha-Africa claims it will create 500 direct and 2,000 indirect jobs, numbers CER says should be both questioned and interrogated.An aerial view of the Wakkerstroom wetland, which together with the Mabola Protected Environment is threatened by coal mining. Photo by James Oatway for CER.An official response On Feb. 23, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) released an official response to the numerous queries from activists and journalists. “It has become necessary to clarify the processes that led up to the abovementioned decision taken by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, in conjunction with the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, and to correct misinformation being disseminated in the public space,” the response reads.“No applications are granted without consideration of the said activity’s long-term impacts on water quality and water security,” the statement said. What unfolds, according to the statement, is the careful balance between environmental conservation and economic development, one the department feels they have achieved.The statement explains that Mabola is legally defined as a “protected environment,” rather than a biodiversity priority area — the latter category includes nature reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites. As such, mining operations in Mabola can be granted official permission.In response, the Centre for Environmental Rights argued that the DEA strategically ignored Category B of this guideline. This category speaks of prohibited mining areas on the basis of biodiversity importance, endangered ecosystems, and freshwater priority areas — all of which apply to the Mabola region.The DEA statement also counters criticism directed at the ministries for not consulting the public on this issue. Citing Section 48 of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003, they argue the Act is, “not explicit” about the need for a compulsory public participation and notification process.Additionally, the DEA believes that water contamination is highly avoidable and that an Environmental Management Committee (EMC) can be created to carry out audits of the wetland areas.In its response on behalf of the coalition, CER tackled many comments and claims made by the department. Activists’ requests for public consultation were, according to CER, repeatedly denied. The final decision by the department was only made public through a formal request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, usually a last resort for journalists and civil society organizations seeking hard-to-access information that is in the public’s interest.CER also claimed (among other issues with the DEA’s statement) the 2014 Environmental Impact Report used by Minister Molewa in making her decision was rejected by the DEA in for its neglect of key areas of concern.Endangered grey crowned cranes (Balearica regulorum regulorum) have nesting sites in the Mabola Protected Area. Photo by Rudiger Stehn/Flickr CC-BY 2.0The battle continuesThe Centre for Environmental Rights is determined to continue fighting the scarring of the surrounding environment by coal mining and the associated risk for water resources, said Executive Director Melissa Fourie.Fourie emphasized that the environmental approvals Atha-Africa claim to have received are technically in flux. “Each and every authorization that Atha has secured for this mine is under appeal or being challenged in court. Two of these appeals have the effect of suspending the authorizations until the appeals have been decided,” she said.Additionally, Fourie argued that water pollution mitigation is impossible in this case. “The main recommended mitigation measure is to avoid all areas of Very High and High sensitivity. This would make the project a ‘No Go’ as almost the entire undermining area is rated as having a Very High or High sensitivity,” she said.In fact, the 2013 Biodiversity Impact Assessment (pdf) prepared for Atha-Africa itself stated that the mining should not go ahead as it was too much of an environmental risk.For now, the battle continues, with organizations such as CER fighting for Section 24 of the South African constitution to be actualized: the right to an environment not harmful to the health or wellbeing of its citizens, and one that will benefit both present and future generations through ecologically sustainable development, while promoting justifiable economic and social development. Activism, Coal, Conservation, Corporate Environmental Transgressors, Energy, Environment, Governance, Grasslands, Mining, Protected Areas, Wetlands Article published by Isabel Esterman Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more

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