The water affairs department has lifted the suspension on a water use licence for a proposed colliery in Limpopo, which environmental groups claim threatens ecological and culturally significant sites.
Despite a huge outcry from a coalition of non-governmental organisations which aim to protect the environment, minister of water and environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, issued the licence to the proposed colliery’s owner, Coal of Africa Ltd (CoAL).
This will allow the colliery to start operations during the first quarter of next year, which include producing 1 million tons of coking coal at its Vele site.
“The coalition is concerned about the minister’s decision to lift the suspension, as it is contrary to the procedure stipulated in the National Water Act (NWA),” said the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a member of the Coalition Group to Save Mapungubwe.
Minister Molewa’s spokesperson, Linda Page, said that the minister had given due consideration to the interests of all the affected parties before coming to a decision to lift the suspension. The minister reportedly came to the conclusion that the time it would have taken for the coalition’s appeal to be finalised by the Water Tribunal would have prejudiced CoAL’s investment and also the workers at Vele.
Page added, “The minister, after consulting widely on the matter, concluded that the strict conditions attached to the licence are adequate. These include that the licence has been issued for five years and is renewable after the first year and every two years thereafter; the mine must, within three months of being issued with a water use licence, establish a [water] monitoring forum; [and] the daily quantity of water taken must be metered and gauged and the total recorded on the last day of each month.”
On hearing the news of the lifting of the suspension, CoAL’s CEO, John Wallington, said he was pleased that the petition to Molewa in this regard had been successful. – Lloyd Phillips