The fight is over and a great park is in danger. Some time ago, I wrote about the threat to South Africa’s unique Mapungubwe National Park from a proposed new coal mine and power station. That threat has now become a reality! After initial delays because the mining company, Australian-owned Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL), had contravened various environmental regulations, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs last week granted permission for the project to go ahead.
CoAL’s CEO John Wallington has confirmed that construction of the Vele Colliery, a short distance from the national park, would go ahead and should be completed within six to nine months. While Albi Modise, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Affairs notes that CoAL had entered into a “biodiversity offset agreement” (whatever that entails), these latest developments bode ill for the future preservation of the rich natural and cultural heritage of Mapungubwe.
The area is not only rich in biodiversity and part of a planned future transfrontier park straddling the borders of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, but it also holds remarkable archaeological evidence of a long history of human inhabitation dating back thousands of years.
The World Heritage Committee, which recognized the “Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape” as a World Heritage Site in 2003, has expressed worries about the future of the area, saying that the decision to give the go-ahead for the mine:
• “failed to adequately assess the full impact on the cultural and natural environment”;
• “could derail international agreements on the transfrontier conservation area”;
• “could have far-reaching implications for the sustainability of the Limpopo Basin”;
• “could completely destroy a landscape that has the potential to contribute significantly to an understanding of the wider settlement history of Mapungubwe”; and
• “could pollute the Limpopo River.”
Of course the mine and power plant could very well also put the area’s status as a World Heritage Site in jeopardy. A broad coalition of local and international NGOs, which has previously brought legal action against the mining plans, said that it would appeal against the Department of Environmental Affairs’ decision to grant permission for the project.
Sign the Care2 petition
If you want to help stop the coal mine and power station, please sign the Care2 petition against coal mining at Mapungubwe.
Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath
Photo from: Stock.Xchng