“Mining Will Offend Our Ancestors”


The days when environmental concerns were confined to preserving the natural habitat of plants and wild animals in a handful of nature reserves and national parks are over.

We can no longer ignore the fact that our continued existence as a species depends on multi-pronged efforts to protect our planet and its biosphere from being destroyed at our own hands. This defense of the global environment takes place on a terrain which is contested by a wide range of interests, including those concerned about the survival of plant and animal species and those intent on preserving human cultural identities and securing environmental justice, as well as those hell-bent on industrial expansion and the exploitation of natural resources wherever profitable.

Nowhere else is the battle between these overlapping interests more apparent than in South Africa’s Mapungubwe region.

Not only is the greater Mapungubwe area the location of a National Park of great importance for the conservation of local wildlife and flora, as well as part of an intended future transfrontier park of international significance, but it is also a World Heritage Site that carries evidence for tens of thousands of years of human settlement. Unfortunately, this area also happens to contain major coal deposits and the South African government has recently granted permission for mining to go ahead right next to the Mapungubwe National Park.

In looking at environmental issues like those around Mapungubwe, we can sometimes forget about the cultural implications. We look at a landscape and its plant and animal inhabitants with little regard for the humans who co-inhabit that landscape with them. We tend to overlook the fact that people may have lived in the area for generations and the fact that their cultural identity and their social history is intricately entwined with the very spaces we’re hoping to preserve from destruction and so-called development.

The story of Vele Neluvhalani, whose ancestors lived and are buried at Mapungubwe, is a very powerful example of the way the fight for the protection of the natural environment is intricately linked to our own human history and heritage.

Vele’s story is beautifully told in this short video clip:

As environmental activists, we simply can’t ignore environmental justice issues such as those addressed by Vele. People like him, who share stories of intimate interconnectedness with the endangered ecosystems they live in, should be our most valued allies in the battle to save these very ecosystems.

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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Photo from: Stock.Xchng


Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago

Signed and emailed the petition at care2.com

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

thanks for sharing.

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

Thank you for this article which alerted us to this potential coal mine development. I am astounded that the SA Govt paid no heed to the fact that they made arrangements for a mine in a National Park. The importance of the area as a World Heritage Site cannot simply be disregarded for the indigenous people and all South Africans nowadays and in the future. There is no other site with similar historical discoveries in SA.
I signed the petition and sent it to friends as well. There is such an outcry over this event, I trust the Govt will reverse its decision.

Teresa H.
Teresa Haller6 years ago

I signed the petition. I pray that this will help. Mother Earth is being destroyed by greed.
I enjoyed listening to Vele, I could have just listened to him for hours. I respect him and
others who are voicing their concerns for the future of Mother Earth. We need to stand
together everywhere and strive to make this a better world with more caring about Mother Earth and all of it's inhabitants on land and sea.

Tina Scislow
Tina Scislow6 years ago

I truely believe in what the article says. We tend to look at the immediate, at what interests us now, no matter the consequences. Be damned is what our attitude says!!!!!

We need to realise that every single tought, every single action, every single feeling, every single word that comes out of our mouths, as well as every single thing we don't do, feel, think, or say has a direct impact on everyone and on everything around us. This effect goes back 9 generations and it goes forward 9 generations, too. So, imagine our impact!!!!!!!

Let us start making our decisions thinking about 7 to 9 generations down the line. Then we might just be more careful and thoughtful. Blessings to all of us! Namaste.

Jan W.
Jan W6 years ago

As the human race, we need to look at our impact on our environment and not just what might make us rich right now. No matter how many fables, stories, etc try to teach us to take care of our planet and see beyond what we can get today, humans still have nearsightedness when it comes to destroying the planet we call home.

Rajshree B.
Rajshree B6 years ago


Dave C.
David C6 years ago

it will also disturb the descendants......
save the Mapungubwe!!!!!

Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec6 years ago

Respect the ancestral land. Save the land from mining. Respect and care for the world heritage site.

Jo Asprec
Jo Asprec6 years ago

Mining kills the land. Mining kills the plants and animals. Mining will kill us. Stop mining now.