Appeal: Mining expanding into wildlife corridor

Written by  Tricia Govindasamy Thursday, 26 January 2017 16:02
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

The expansion of a mining project that cuts through a protected water system and a proposed wildlife migration corridor in North West province has been given the go-ahead by environmental authorities.

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE), a group of community-based civil society organisations, has appealed the authorisation – arguing that “environmental decisions must achieve a balance between environmental and socio-economic developmental considerations through the concept of sustainable development”.

Read the full artiicle, including comment from the community, on OXPECKERS.  Documentation is also available on the site. 

The green light for the mine expansion was granted by the North West provincial Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development on June 28 2016. FSE, supported by the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust, appealed the decision on October 31, and both the mining company and FSE filed answering statements last week.

Pilanesberg Platinum Mines, previously called Itereleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources, is the owner of the Sedibelo Platinum Mine, located north of the Pilanesberg National Park.

The proposed expansion is part of three separate mining projects on adjacent farms which will result in a combined mining operation. These three mines are:

• PPM Tuschenkomst (currently operational)

• Sedibelo Platinum Mine (Sedibelo) (approved and developing)

• Magazynskraal Platinum Mine (Magazynskraal) (proposed).

The FSE says the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and environmental management plan (EMP) did not consider the cumulative impacts associated with these three projects. The organisation maintains that the authorisation should have not been granted based solely on the impact of the original mining project, and should have been considered afresh.

Sedibelo argues in response that the second environmental authorisation is effectively an amendment to the original go-ahead given in 2008, although “it takes the form of an independent environmental authorisation… The appeal fails to recognise that [the FSE] is constrained by the present reality, namely that the mine is already authorised.”


Protected water system

The Sedibelo Mine is located in protected water areas that include wetlands and the important Bofule river system. Surrounding communities rely on borehole water and believe that the mine is drawing water from their boreholes, contributing to a  decrease in crop yields.

The Mining and Biodiversity Guideline categorises sections along the Wilgespruit and Bofule rivers as “highest biodiversity importance and risk for mining”.

The southern section of the mining development area is similarly categorised in the guideline, launched by the national Environment Department in 2013 to “provide direction on how to avoid, minimise or remedy mining impacts as part of a thorough environmental impact assessment and robust environmental management programme”.

The original Sedibelo mining operations were approved in 2007, prior to the publication of the guideline and the identification of the region as a national freshwater ecosystem priority area. Sedibelo obtained a water use licence in August 2015.

Both the current operations and proposed expansion are located in areas of highest or high biodiversity importance, as stipulated in the Mining and Biodiversity Guideline.

“The mine’s impact on these biodiversity priority areas was not adequately considered in the decision to grant environmental authorisation,” states FSE.

PPM says in its response that the company’s chief director had “applied his mind to the anticipated biodiversity impacts and tailored specific conditions to mitigate them”.

The plan is to incorporate 167,000ha of private, state and community land into a corridor between the two reserves over a 20-year period in two-phases.

Heritage Park Corridor

The Heritage Park Corridor plan developed by the North West Parks and Tourism Board envisages a migration pathway for wildlife between the Pilanesberg National Park and the Madikwe Game Reserve. Wildlife corridors are mooted by environmentalists as a way to create metapopulations and resolve problems associated with the isolation of pockets of wildlife crammed into fragmented reserves.

The plan is to incorporate 167,000ha of private, state and community land into a corridor over a 20-year period in two-phases. The corridor’s aims include creating a nature-based tourism anchor project and a primary socio-economic catalyst for the region.

Phase one, located at the south of the Heritage Park, will be a fenced off area inhabited by non-dangerous wildlife. During this phase, community and mining activities can take place.

Phase two, known as the dangerous game corridor, will be a migratory corridor for the “Big Five” between the Pilanesberg National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve. No community and mining activities are allowed in Phase two.

The expansion of the Sedibelo mine infrastructure cuts through the dangerous game corridor and the current mining operations approved in 2007 also occur in this region. In 2007 PPM proposed an alternative dangerous game corridor.

“The feasibility of the alternative corridor proposed in the EIA and EMP was not assessed at all. The result is that the impact of the project on the eco-tourism potential of the area (and thus the need and desirability of the project) has not been properly assessed,” says the FSE.

PPM says from the inception of Heritage Park Corridor concept, mining activities were always planned to coexist with phase one. “The corridor is a concept of the North West Parks and Tourism Board, thus the mining company is not legally obligated to investigate its feasibility.”

Oxpeckers was unable to get comment from the North West Parks Board.



Ransacked Gold Mine Venture Reboots

South African mining veteran Peter Skeat is pressing ahead with plans to squeeze more gold out of an 80-year-old ransacked gold mine west of Johannesburg after settling a dispute with three former partners.

Coal Mines leave a legacy of ruin

Oxpeckers publishes never-before-seen data exposing the lack of mine closures, d...

Tours of West Rand gold fields

The FSE conducts regular tours with interested and affected parties, of the West...


LLM/MPhil in Environmental Law Programme launched

  The Department of Public Law at the University of Pretoria hosted a launch of its LLM and MPhil programmes in Environmental Law, coordinated by Ms Melanie Murcott, Senior Lecturer, Environmental and Administrative Law, in February 2017.

Water Show

The FSE will be presenting at a keynote panel discussion at "The Water Show Africa" on the 29th of March.

Lauded for research on SA acid mine drainage

The launch of Acid mine drainage in South Africa: Development actors, policy impacts and broader implications, by Suvania Naidoo, took place on 10 February 2017. The book has proven to be a timely publication because of the incipient water crisis in South Africa. The event was hosted by Unisa’s Department of Development Studies in the College of Human Sciences. The guests were welcomed by the chair of the department, Prof Gretchen du Plessis, who expressed that “development studies is an ever-changing discipline and is a space where different issues converge”. She further stated that the book fills a void in our knowledge about acid mine drainage (AMD) and that the publication is “an example of hard work which results in big achievements”.

Truth of the dust that brings death

  A new hard-hitting report from Harvard Law School details how South Africa has failed to meet its human rights obligations concerning gold mining in and around Joburg. Bonnie Docherty, who led the research, spoke to Sheree Bega


Eastern Basin acid water plant is "sledgehammer"

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has used a "sledgehammer" for its R1bn treatment plant for acid mine drainage (AMD) on the Eastern mining basin that could ultimately create more toxic water.  This is the view of water strategy and consulting mining hydrologist Kym Morton, who believes government is "wasting money" by pumping large volumes of water and adding lime that makes it alkaline but still toxic and hazardous. 

SABC Health Talk, Environmental Health: 25 February 2017

Focus on preventing illness rather than incurring the expense of treatment....

Rand Water tightens the taps in Gauteng

In the Midvaal suburb where Sipho Mosai lives, the gardens are lush and green be...