Blow to Indian Owned Coal Mine Planned in Mabola Protected Area

  • In 2015, the SA Minister of Mineral Resources granted an Indian-owned mining company, the right to mine for coal in Mabola, a declared protected environment.
  • A Civil Society Coalition is fighting tooth and nail to stop the coal mine from going ahead.
  • Earlier this week, MEC for Environment in Mpumalanga, Vusi Shongwe, published a notice of intention to exclude the properties that make up the proposed coal mining area from the Mabola Protected Environment.
  • Yesterday, Judge Davis refused the postponement of the application and ordered the state to pay the costs.
  • The latest developments come on the back of news that The World Bank has abandoned the last coal project on its books.

In 2015, the Minister of Mineral Resources granted Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd, an Indian-owned mining company, the right to mine for coal in an area in Mpumalanga that was declared a Protected Environment in January 2014. The Centre for Environmental Rights, on behalf of a group of eight civil society and community organisations from across South Africa, challenged this decision on the basis that it was illegal and dangerous, and would compromise the community, region and country’s access to precious water resources.

The Mabola Protected Environment in Mpumalanga falls within the Enkangala Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area, vital for producing water that is consumed by local communities. The area is composed mostly of wetlands, pans and grassland, and is a source of four major rivers – the Tugela, the Vaal, the Usutu and the Pongola – that provide water to a huge number of downstream water users. These users will all be affected if the sources of those rivers are compromised.

On Friday, 12 October 2018, more than 4 years after the declaration of the Mabola Protected Environment, the MEC for Environment in Mpumalanga, Vusi Shongwe, published a notice of intention to exclude the properties that make up the proposed coal mining area from the Mabola Protected Environment, declared in 2014. The notice provides for a comment period of 60 days.

On Tuesday, 16 October 2018, Judge Norman Davis instructed MEC Shongwe to file his own version of events on the affidavit – to explain to the court the late publication of the gazetted notice, given its potential impact on the judicial review application to be heard one court day later. That affidavit by the MEC was filed in the afternoon (with annexure). The civil society coalition filed a further answering affidavit in the early hours of Wednesday, 17 October 2018.

After hearing the argument, Judge Davis refused the postponement application and ordered the state to pay the costs of the postponement application on an attorney and client scale.

The latest developments come on the back of news that the The World Bank has abandoned the last coal project on its books, with its president publicly dumping the Kosova e Re plant on Wednesday. Speaking at a town hall event in Bali, Jim Yong Kim was asked by civil society representatives from Kosovo whether the bank was still considering guaranteeing loans to the plant.

“On the Balkans, yes, we have made a very firm decision not to go forward with the coal power plant,” he said.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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