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

13 June 17
Coal Mining in South Africa

Atha-Africa has always strived hard to make mining as sustainable and environment-friendly as possible. Here is the story of how Atha-Africa overcame the obstacles to gain mining rights in Mabola, discussed in two consecutive blogs.  Atha-Africa has been holder of the prospecting right which had been in existence since 2006. It went on to apply for and be granted a right to mine coal in South Africa with respect to the mineral and prospecting area as per law. In 2013, the MEC: MDEDET declared a proposal, which stated that certain areas were included in the Mabola Protected Environment.

Atha-Africa Ventures lodged a formal objection with the MEC thereby, requesting exclusion of relevant Mining properties from the declaration of the Mabola protected environment. The letter, which contained several other clauses, also drew attention of the MEC to certain features of the Yzermyn underground coal mine and the social, economic and environmental aspects that it touched upon. Atha-Africa made all attempts to prove that the proposed mining area was not so sensitive to development. A series of notice and letters followed until a meeting between the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, Atha-Africa Ventures and the sector of environmental non–governmental organisations with regard to the proposed Yzermyn Underground Coal Mine was held.

A co-operation agreement was proposed, which was considered the best way of withdrawing the objection of Atha-Africa Ventures against the proposed declaration of the Mabola Protected Environment. In response, Atha-Africa Ventures proceeded to present an agreement and prepared a draft for discussion purposes which was sent to MTPA.

However, in the responding e-mail it was made clear that the environmental non–governmental organisations and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency werenot prepared to relinquish their rights to object against the granting of whatever statutory permission Atha-Africa Ventures had to acquire for this development. They were also unwilling to concede to an exclusion of all five (5) the immovable properties falling within the mining area of the proposed Yzermyn Underground Coal Mine but at the same time indicated that negotiations about the area to be excluded should be on the basis of the actual impact area of some 100 ha, to be more clearly defined in the agreement.

Arguments and negotiations continued till it was stalled by the NGOs in an email where MTPAinformed Atha that that the MEC had constituted an appeal panel to consider all the objections and representations with regard to the declaration of the proposed Mabola Protected Environment, with details of the hearing and an invitation to Atha-Africa Ventures to make an oral representation on its objection. A Power Point Presentation was made by Atha-Africa Ventures during the hearing on 28 November 2013.

The points included in the presentation and the incidents that followed thereafter will be discussed in the Part II of the famous Mabola Story.