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Coal Mine At World Heritage Site Approved

Coal Mine At World Heritage Site Approved

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


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3:29PM PST on Nov 10, 2012

Earth Cry

Mother Nature Needs Us

9:50AM PST on Nov 10, 2012

I guess the ONLY way to stop this kind of destruction is to reduce demand. Have fewer children. Reduce,reuse and recycle. Eat local. Use more efficient lighting and appliances. Put in wind or solar power supplies. Walk when ever possible. Demand products that are not made to be thrown away

4:19AM PDT on Aug 23, 2011

Have signed the care2 petition. Thank you for posting the article.

6:08AM PDT on Jul 24, 2011

I hope this mine will not be opened.

1:05AM PDT on Jul 24, 2011

Thanks for the article.

10:41PM PDT on Jul 22, 2011

thanks for sharing.

7:36AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Signed petition. Will humans ever learn how polluting coal mining is? Of course these companies don't care, it's money they are after. Anyone who thinks coal mining is fine and the land returns back after the mining is done, how about when the mountain top is blown off, will that ever return? All the mercury and other dangerous chemicals thrown into waterways, will that just disappear? All the people and wildlife who get sick and die from this activity, will they come back? And this is NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL!!! Maybe the burning of it is cleaner, but the extraction process is the worst and will never be clean. Both have to be taken into account, not just the burning of a fossill fuel.

2:01AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Approving this is outrageous, but what can be expected in a society which sees profit as the foremost thing? Mining anywhere near a NP or World Heritage Site only shows that nothing is sacred to those involved anymore. Even if it meant an economic boost, and I can see it may be necessary, it is short-sighted -- how clever is it to be destroying our own environment? The extraction of these dirty resources peeve me -- It bodes great trouble and it will be destructive -- first to nature, than to humans.

12:28AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

So will this mean that World Heritage sites around the world are fair game in exchange for big bucks.Shame shame.I am not able to sign because of my post code.

8:55PM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

The almighty dollar wins again and the earth loses. Pretty soon we will be out of options-we are digging our own graves!

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