The future impact of heavy mining vehicles on roads close to the proposed Vele colliery is in dispute between the colliery’s owners and farmers in the surrounding areas.
John Wallington, CEO of Coal of Africa Ltd (CoAL) that owns Vele, said his company has “very good relations with farmers around Vele”. He spoke at a media event hosted by the Save Mapungubwe Campaign and CoAL where a memorandum of understanding with regards to the mine’s future operations was signed.
He referred to the water use licence which the mine was awarded amid criticism from the local organised farming community. “The Vele water use licence is one of the best drafted water use licences because of the high profile of the licence,” he said, referring to the controversy surrounding the suspension and subsequent awarding of the licence.
But according to Stephan Hoffman, chairperson of the Soutpansberg District Farmers Union, there is concern about the quality of underground water with mine blasting in the vicinity. “Because the mine is a deep hole in the earth, underground water will break through the surface. The mine indicated it will make use of this water and said it will not be harmful,” he responded to Farmer’s Weekly by telephone.
The farmers, however, are concerned about the use of explosives. “We are uncomfortable with it. When the mine blasts with explosives, the compression forces gas to dissolve in the water,” Hoffman said. “This same water must be given to animals and used in homes.”
Riaan van der Merwe, chief operating officer of CoAL, said that there was no need for public engagement on water use licences. The company, nevertheless, appointed a monitoring committee on water to oversee the implementation of the licence’s arrangements. The committee, according to him, will be headed by an official from SANParks.
Another pressing issue is the use of roads around the proposed Vele site. “All necessary mitigation will be done,” promised Wallington, with regards to heavy duty vehicles using the roads. Van der Merwe added that the density on the region’s roads is not as high as those surrounding collieries in Mpumalanga.
Although Van der Merwe said that CoAL will look at a rail link to the site, Hoffman said previous experience showed roads will eventually be used. “Tshikondeni mine is an example,” Hoffman said. “The rail link from Musina can’t handle the freight and then heavy duty vehicles haul the freight by road.” – Jaco Visser