The Fight for Coal Mining in the Mabola Region by Atha-Africa – Part II

20 June 17
Yzermyn Coal Project in South Africa

In the last blog, we have discussed about Atha-Africa which has been fighting for its right to sustainable mining in the area that has been declared as the Mabola Protected Region. Now, the presentation that Atha-Africa Ventures had put forth on 28th November, 2013 was based on the concept of sustainable development as contained in the positive law (with its three pillars of social, economic and environmental factors between which a balance has to be found) within the context of the system of anthropogenic environmental management in terms of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

It is important to note in this regard that the MEC’s response to Atha’s presentation stated that “Declaration of an area as a protected environment is not intended to create an area of conflict with mining rights granted over an area, but however serve as a measure to ensure that mining activities, if approved may occur in an environmentally sustainable manner.” However, the environmental NGOs continued with its argument stating that mining in the Mabola Protected Environment will lead to ecological degradation. They disregarded the point that mining, if carried out in a sustainable manner, would only create a sustainable development and improvement in human lives. Notwithstanding the attack by the NGOs, MEC finally stated that Atha-Africa’s work will be close to ensuring a balance towards preserving the environment, ensuring a reasonable maximum profits and contributing to the socio-economy of the affected communities through their encouraging social and labour plan.

At this point, the most positive signal came from the 9,000 members of the local community of Pixley Isaka Seme who objected against the proposed declaration, mainly out of concern that the intended declaration had the potential of ensuring that the current negative socio-economic problems within the Community would prevail in that, amongst other things, poverty will worsen, jobs will not be created and the dream for infrastructure development within the areas will remain a dream.

Finally and at last, MEC decided to continue with the intended declaration of the Mabola Protected Environment but however with the exclusion of Portion 1 of the Farm Yzermyn 96 HT where the surface infrastructure of the proposed mine would be place as the declaration of these areas will not necessarily prohibit mining therein but will subject mining in the region to strict and/or stringent environmental conditions should the Mining Right be granted.

In January, 2014, Atha-Africa once again tried to have the relevant mining properties from the Mabola Protected Environment. The reply stated that should the Mining Right be granted the first step should be for Atha-Africa Ventures to enter into a discussion with the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency and the land owners in order to agree on fundamental principles with regard to the possible co existence of mining and conservation within the protected environment.